Toronto Police are urging more people to come forward to help with their investigation into two deaths at the VELD Music Festival last weekend.
A 22-year-old man and 20-year-old woman died after ingesting drugs at the electronic dance music (EDM) festival, which took place at Downsview Park on Saturday and Sunday. Thirteen others were hospitalized with symptoms that included lightheadedness and seizures. They are all expected to recover.
At a press briefing at police headquarters on Tuesday, Detective-Sergeant Peter Trimble of the homicide squad reported that so far only one person had responded to the force's request to turn in drugs they bought at VELD for testing.
"I want to encourage members of the community who have these drugs to please contact the Toronto Police Service," Trimble said. "This is one of the ways that we're going to prevent future either illnesses or deaths."
The cops have identified two types of pills that they believe may be responsible: a small brown pill, and "a small clear capsule with a white substance." It's not yet known what's in them.
"Unfortunately, some of these people didn't even know what they were taking," Trimble said. "We had some people taking upwards of 10 pills, some people picking up pills on the ground."
Trimble asked anyone who purchased the drugs to call the homicide squad at 416 808-7400 or the police tip line at 222-TIPS to make arrangements to surrender the pills. The police are also requesting that anyone with photos or video of the concert upload them to tps.on.ca/veld.
Meanwhile, the VELD tragedy has reignited a feud at City Hall over allowing EDM festivals on city property.
In April the Exhibition Place board of directors voted to ban EDM events from the city-owned exhibition grounds. Board member Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti argued that the all-ages concerts posed a safety risk for young patrons. But in May Councillors Gord Perks and Mike Layton, who also sit on the board, successfully fought to overturn the ban at council.
In a press release Tuesday, Mammoliti called on Layton and Perks to step down over the VELD incident.
"Councillors Perks and Layton should resign their seats on council," Mammoliti said in the release. "If it wasn't for them pushing for these events and insisting they be held on government lands I don't believe these kids would be dead today."
Councillor Layton told NOW he has no intention of resigning, however. "My heart goes out to the family of the two young people that died in this case. Right now what we're doing is looking for answers," he said, noting that the police are still investigating.
Layton believes that banning the concerts would only push them underground and that it is safer to hold them at Exhibition Place, which enacted a safety protocol for EDM parties following the fatal overdose of a 21-year-old man at a parking garage rave in 2000.
The policy includes having an ambulance on site at all times and requiring organizers to submit a written emergency plan, but it doesn't apply to Downsview, which is operated by the federal government.
A park spokesperson said that Downsview has "security criteria that promoters must meet" but wouldn't go into detail. According to INK Entertainment, which organized VELD, festival staffing included 280 security guards, 40 medics, a doctor, four ambulances, 26 paid duty police officers, and 15 INK security managers.
Councillor Perks declined to comment on Tuesday, but in May he argued that Mammoliti's professed concern about the safety of young music fans was a smokescreen for protecting the business interests of Muzik nightclub, which operates out of the Horticultural Building on Exhibition grounds. The club's owner Zlatko Starkovski had pushed for the EDM ban, saying that the concerts jeopardized his business.
In addition to organizing VELD, INK Entertainment has also staged EDM shows at Exhibition Place.
Layton said Tuesday that he couldn't say whether Mammoliti was trying to use the VELD fatalities to score political points for Muzik, but said, "If that's the case it's very distasteful."
Muzik has had its share of safety issues as well; early Tuesday morning a man was taken to hospital in serious condition after a shooting outside the nightspot.