Ottawa festival partners with police to provide 'amnesty drug bin'
Published Sunday, June 25, 2017 12:33PM EDT
Ottawa’s Escapade Festival has partnered with the Ottawa Police Service to provide an amnesty drug bin for festival-goers this weekend to get the summer festival season off to a safe start.
Two banners above the entrance to the festival advise attendees to “dispose of illegal drugs in amnesty bin on the left,” referring to a small covered tent set up by Ottawa police to allow people to anonymously drop off unwanted illegal drugs before entering the venue.
According to Ottawa Police Sgt. Reno Rushford, attendees only have to walk into the tent labeled “Amnesty Bin” and drop off their unwanted drugs.
“No one asks your name or follows you,” Sgt. Rushford told CTV Ottawa. “Then go in and enjoy the concert and we’ll take care of it from there.”
More than 25,000 people are expected to have attended the two-day electronic-dance-music festival after Sunday night’s final show, featuring a number of popular DJs including Zeds Dead, Steve Aoki and Tiesto.
On Friday, Escapade posted a statement on Facebook announcing the addition of the amnesty drug bin, a first for the city of Ottawa, and encouraged festival-goers to, “dump your drugs” and “look after each other.”
Other posts included ways attendees can recognize the signs of a drug overdose and more specifically a fentanyl overdose.
The amnesty program has been used successfully by British Columbia in the past, according to Ali Shafaee with the Escapade Music Festival. The Shambhala Festival, near Nelson, B.C., has a harm reduction tent where drugs can be tested for other substances and tossed into amnesty bins. Other large festivals in the U.S. and Europe have also used amnesty drug bins.
“Obviously, we’re the first festival of the season, so we want to make sure we set a standard and get through the weekend on a great, positive note,” said Shafaee.
Organizers of the festival said they’ve taken precautions to prevent drug overdoses during the festival, including privately hiring paramedics, security and members of the Canadian Ski Patrol, who are trained to administer the opioid-overdose saving drug naloxone.
According to Ottawa Police Services, the city sees more than 30 drug overdose deaths every year and in 2016 saw an average of 22 emergency room visits due to drug overdoses.
The amnesty bin is currently only a pilot project, but depending on the success, after this weekend the bin could turn into a staple at other festivals in the Ottawa-area.
With a report from CTV Ottawa