Opinion Column

Don't blame music festival organizers

Leo Knight Prime Time Crime columnist 24 hours (PHOTO SUBMITTED).

By Leo Knight, Law and Order, 24 hours Vancouver

RCMP at the Pemberton Music Festival after one man died. (QMI AGENCY)

RCMP at the Pemberton Music Festival after one man died. (QMI AGENCY)

Following the deaths of a woman at the Boonstock Music Festival in Penticton and a man at the Pemberton Music Festival — with police warnings about alcohol and drugs after dozens of Boonstock attendees were sent to hospital — I got the inevitable media calls asking for comment on what organizers could do to prevent such things from occurring.

Well, short of body-cavity searches for all patrons, which might be considered to be a trifle invasive, not much really. The general problem at these events consists of party drugs and stupid people who would take unknown drugs purchased from a stranger.

The other part of the problem is that even the seller likely has no real idea what’s in the pill or powder they’re selling. They may call it Ecstasy, but more than likely, increasingly, party drugs are a mixture of multiple substances.

And it’s not just happening in B.C. Last weekend, there were two deaths and 13 non-fatal overdoses at a concert in Toronto that caused police to issue a warning about party drugs. In Columbia, Maryland, at the Mad Decent Block Party concert, two died and 20 more were taken to hospital.

In all of these events, the common denominators are youth, unknown drugs and music. For whatever reason, these young folks have taken to playing Russian roulette by taking and mixing unknown drugs at festivals and concerts. And too many are paying for their folly with their lives.

After all the events, police issued warnings. Penticton RCMP said, “(We) have a very real concern for public safety at this event and fear there may be further overdose deaths if attendees do not take steps to safeguard their own health.”

And there’s the rub. It’s not the organizers’ fault. It’s not the fault of police or security doing their best to try and keep out contraband. It is the fault of each person who makes a conscious decision to ingest chemicals — not knowing or caring what’s in them.

Everyone knee-jerks when deaths like this occur. They look around for someone to blame, like those media who called me asking if the organizers could do more?

Well, no, not really. In most cases, reputable organizers, promoters and security do their best to cover off all eventualities. But even the best planners can’t stop someone from doing something really, really stupid. And you can’t fix stupid.

Leo Knight is a former police officer, security expert and host of primetimecrime.com.  


Do you think festival organizers could do more to prevent deaths?

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