Industry taking steps towards creating safer spaces for festivalgoers

The Ottawa Festival Network (OFN) is partnering with Capital Pride, Ottawa Public Health and the City of Ottawa’s Recreation and Cultural Department to deliver a pilot initiative to promote safer spaces at festivals, special events and fairs. The pilot includes an awareness campaign that will run during Capital Pride and an industry summit that will take place in the fall.

“Everyone has the right to feel safe at any event they attend,” said Carole Anne Piccinin, OFN’s Executive Director. “We are an industry that brings millions of people together annually to generate positive impacts for our community. In that light, this is a very important initiative that aims to further develop a festival culture that encourages organizers and participants to do better and to lookout for one another,” she added.

The awareness campaign highlights messages from Ottawa Public Health on how to “Party Safe”, including how to identify an overdose and what steps to take.

“Capital Pride is proud to partner with the Ottawa Public Health, the City of Ottawa and Ottawa Festival Network to deliver this important initiative. We are committed to creating safer spaces for and providing resources to the 2SLGBTQ+ community and all attendees at this year’s festival,” said Davy Sabourin, Chairperson of Capital Pride.

Numerous studies conducted internationally demonstrate that the issue of sexual assault is prevalent at mass gatherings such as festivals, with as many as a third of women reporting being sexually assaulted. The pilot will address this key issue, in addition to drug overdoses as concern about opioids and fentanyl have increased.

“Ottawa Public Health is pleased to partner with Capital Pride, Ottawa Festival Network and the City of Ottawa’s Recreation and Cultural Department to support safer music spaces and festivals in Ottawa,” said Dr. Vera Etches, Medical Officer of Health, Ottawa Public Health. “This important partnership is part of an on-going collaboration to make it easier for festivalgoers and staff to recognize when someone is at risk for harm and how to help.”

The pilot has been funded to support Ottawa Music Strategy outcomes for safer spaces. Tools and resources developed through this pilot will be made available to Ottawa’s event organizers and music venues. “The City of Ottawa is pleased to collaborate with Ottawa Public Health, OFN and Capital Pride to promote safer spaces through the coordinated dissemination of the Party Safe tool kit. It accomplishes yet another action item from the Ottawa Music Strategy, and helps to improve quality of life overall,” said Kwende Kefentse, Cultural Industries Development Officer at the City of Ottawa’s Recreation and Cultural Department.

This fall, the festival industry will come together with Ottawa Public Health and other stakeholders to identify key issues, assess industry needs and develop actionable plans and tools to facilitate safer spaces. “Our industry puts great value on the safety of attendees, staff, volunteers and performers,” said Piccinin. “As industry champions, the OFN Board of Directors has emphasized the importance of supporting our industry to provide safer working environments and experiences. We greatly appreciate the contribution of Ottawa Public Health and the City of Ottawa’s Recreation and Cultural Department towards that end.”