Skip navigation.

Dark Side of the Night

 I woke up once on the front landing on a Queen West apartment building. It was late November, and nearly 4 am. I was by myself, and didn't have my purse. I was underdressed beneath my coat, and hungry. I walked in to a 24hr coffee shop, and felt sorry for the woman who had to work the late night shift. In retrospect, she probably felt sorry for me too. A man bought me a sandwich, and we sat together while I ate it and he drank coffee. I dont remember our conversation, but I do remember finding a camping light in my coat pocket as we spoke. I thanked him and left, then grabbed a cab home.

Now, you don't need to tell me I'm luck that I didn't “get hurt” that night. Because I did, I got very hurt. I got all sorts of hurt, the kind of hurt that lasts for years and resurfaces particularly painfully when you're asked to write something about sexual assault and nightlife. What had prompted me to leave in a hurry, such hurry that I had left my purse sitting on a bench where I had placed it so I could attempt to dance, was aggressive touching and kissing from someone had that I had had a brief and somewhat forced relationship with in the past. I remember trying to break lose, and the grip only tightening. 

The thing with nightlife, especially in Toronto, is that there is no escaping the past. You will see the same people over and over again, and you can never know if the night will bring an unwanted encounter. You may be uncomfortably caught in a dark room, yelling no over the music, always hoping that they acted because they simply never heard you. Those whom you thought had disappeared, will reappear. You may be left vulnerable and alone when you try to escape, and the people who will see you may never know what happened. But they will think that what they know is that your skirt was too short, you were breast were too big, and you were wearing too much make up.

The records get erased. Reviews, and pictures rarely hold the truth about the dark side of the night. When it comes down to it, talking about sexual assault is “bad for business” and nightlife is supposed to be business that revolves around fantasy and fun, a refuge from the day. The biggest lie is that the complications of day won't seep in to the night. The reality is that they do. The same inequitable gender dynamics that live during the day do not die at night. And I believe that we've had enough.

I think it's time to talk.  

Five things we learned at the Toronto Safer Nightlife Forum

Can Toronto's clubland chaos be reined in?

TRIP! ProjectFour stakeholders in Toronto’s nightlife community—Yamina-Sara Chekroun (youth-outreach worker/event promoter), Nav Sangha (DJ/venue owner), Mike Homewood (Homewood Security) and Samantha Wells (Centre for Addiction & Mental Health)—came together yesterday at the King West Hyatt Regency to take part in an informative and lively panel discussion moderated by entertainment lawyer and film impresario, Jerry Levitan. A crowd of 70-odd students, club operators, fun-loving partiers, and security- and law-enforcement professionals came out to share their concerns and offer suggestions for managing issues like sexual aggression and illicit drug use in Toronto’s club community. These were the most pertinent talking points:

1. Pay your security staff better

Surly security staff might take a courteous change of heart if they were paid better. “A security guard makes $13-$20 an hour, and that doesn’t include their license, which costs upwards to $500,” said Homewood. As well, some security might be less committed to their job since many only work for extra cash on the weekends. But, at the end of the day, it’s the bar owners that dictate what type of behaviour is acceptable.

2. Clubbers need better education

“When you turn 19, you go to the club and that’s all you know,” said Arthur Geringas, General Manager at Richmond Street’s Club XS. “Unfortunately, the stereotypes are true: 905ers just have less education on these issues—they should be taught effects of drugs and alcohol in school so that they can behave better.” Susan Shepherd, of The Toronto Drug Strategy, piped in: “But there is no mandatory drug education in public schools past Grade 9.”

3. Social media is for more than just event promotion

Along with being a DJ, owner of Wrongbar and co-owner of The Great Hall, Sangha is also something of a social-media creeper.  “I came mostly as an observer, to listen to the voice of the youth. They are very no-holds-barred when it comes to expressing their opinions. It’s so important to be monitoring all avenues, especially social media, because it’s not like nightclubs have suggestion boxes.”

4. Toronto is stuck in the past

Toronto still carries a lot of Prohibition-era baggage that prevents progressive thinking. It’s illegal to be drunk in public, even in bars and clubs, according theAlcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO).  “We don’t make the rules, we just enforce them,” said a representative. The situation creates a catch-22 for bar owners who will often toss out inebriated patrons into the cold, without their jackets and belongings, so as to not risk a fine.

5. The kids like to drink

According to the Toronto Safer Nightlife survey, which polled over 300 Toronto club goers aged 19-29, 90 per cent of participants admitted to drinking before going out to the club. About half of the partiers said they down three to five before heading out, most claiming high bar prices as a reason. (Side note: binge drinking isdefined by Toronto Public Health authorities as five or more drinks in one sitting.) When it came to describing their drinking habits at the club, respondents claimed they drank till they felt “drunk enough” (62 per cent), till they ran out of money (36 per cent), till last call (34 per cent) or till they felt ill (32 per cent)—that is, if they weren’t among those who “go all night” (40 per cent).

Toronto Safer Nightlife Forum

Tuesday November 8, 2011
2:30pm – 6:00pm

Hyatt Regency Hotel
Regency Ballroom B
370 King Street West
Toronto, Ontario

Join us for a conversation with youth and bar/club operators about safety issues in Toronto’s nightlife scene. Topics include pre-drinking, illicit drugs, sexual aggression and strategies for reducing harm. Come out and share your views and ideas for creating safer bars and clubs.

Jerry Levitan (lawyer, musician and Academy Award nominee) will moderate the forum. Speakers include Yamina-Sara Chekroun (youth outreach worker/event promoter), Nav Sangha (venue owner/DJ), Mike Homewood (Homewood Security) and Samantha Wells (Centre for Addiction & Mental Health).

Featuring DJs and light refreshments.

RSVP on Facebook @

This event is brought to you by the Toronto Safer Nightlife Committee comprised of youth, TRIP!, Toronto Public Health, the Alcohol & Gaming Commission of Ontario, the Centre for Addiction & Mental Health, Asian Community AIDS Services, the Entertainment District Business Improvement Area, the Parkdale Village Business Improvement Area, the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas, Social Development, Finance & Administration and Municipal Licensing & Standards.

Dance Drugs and Harm Reduction

This morning we had the honour of presenting at the Centre for Additions and Mental Health on Dance Drugs and Harm Reduction.  Feel free to check out our presentation and share it with your friends, family and service providers.  

Just say no... to stigma!

 Health education can be tricky. There's many factors to consider when implementing a public health campaign. Demographic of the target audience and the right tone when addressing this audience is key. Oftentimes, especially with campaigns geared at youth and drug use things get topsy-turvy. The wrong tone can mean an ineffective, often counterproductive campaign. Anti-oppression should be a core value of all education. Judgement and/or discrimination needs to be avoided at all costs. Education is key and honesty goes a long way. This seems pretty simple and straight-forward, right?

Unfortunately, many health campaigns geared at youth do the exact opposite. Many drug prevention efforts rely on scare tactics and abstinence-based “Just Say No” approaches. Youth who use drugs will do so regardless of whether society shakes the finger at them or not. Things aren't white and black, people partake in different risks therefore health education should cater to all sorts of individuals. People who use drugs get shunned, marginalized, pushed out of society and left feeling guilty about their lifestyle. Health education should focus on the education rather than on trying to scare people straight. We should be teaching people about the risks associated with different activities, and encourage critical thinking in order to empower individuals to make informed choices that affect their bodies and minds.

There is an unspoken tension in the social service sector between substance prevention and harm reduction tactics. This is counterproductive. Harm reduction's main mandate is to lower risk levels of current drug users, as well as getting individuals into and familiarized with the healthcare system and providing referrals to other health services including recovery upon request. The main mandate for prevention is to minimize drug misuse/abuse within society and thus improve the overall health of our communities. These two philosophies to healthcare can and should be adjacent. 

However, many prevention campaigns still continue to use scare tactics and demonize drug use and drug users. Instead, prevention should focus on recovery services for those who are ready and willing to get help. Not every person who uses drugs is an addict and society can't impose the same standards for everyone. The best way to identify a problematic drug habit is by the individual after proactive self-reflection. You can't help someone who doesn't want help and labelling people as “addicts” or “junkies” further oppresses those who use drugs. Harm reduction should be seen as secondary prevention. It is crucial to provide healthcare services for individuals who use drugs since oftentimes the ritual or way of consuming certain substances is far riskier and detrimental to the individual and society's overall health than the drug itself. A great example of this is sharing needles, straws, pipes and works. All these activities put individuals at risk of transmitting a virus that is a far greater risk than the drugs being used.

We need to be progressive with health education not retrogressive. I encourage you to think twice before bashing crucial, essential and much needed harm reduction services and when implementing prevention campaigns. We need to start thinking about people being affected by these issues with more care, diligence and an open mind. Next time you see a person who uses drugs, think about why they are where they are in life rather than blaming it on their use and walking past blindly. 

TRIP!Apparel Officially Launched!

Save the Date! TRIP! Project Training in Mexico City

Wish You Were Here


Join us in Mexico City to learn more about drug policy and how youth can advocate for social change! Featuring youth activists from Espolea , TRIP! and the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union.  All youth are welcome to learn and strategize on how we can transform drug policy.

 Sign up online here

Elements & TRIP!Apparel

Come one, come all!

It's the party that you've been waiting all summer. 

TRIP! presents...


Celebrating the four pillars of our community: 

DJing, MCing, Visual Arts and Dance. 


Beats provided by DJs dubcomm, VRKSM, Wrongwun and GRRG

Featuring a fashion show with the new TRIP!Apparel Fall Collection

Preview the collection @​m/tripproject

Belly Dancing by Mystic Caravan

Free Snacks! 

Launch of Holy Smokes  Zine!

Showcase includes arts workshops, including shuffling, silkscreening, tie dying, and kandi making!!!!!

 RSVP on Facebook  or PureRave  



Bunk Police Manifesto

Bunk Police
Bunk Police 
The drug culture is not what it used to be. Over the last month our group has tested nearly 2,500 substance samples presented to us by patrons of music festivals and concerts.

The results have been truly sobering. Nearly 100% of samples are cut with one or more substances, and they aren’t using baking soda anymore.

Research chemicals, sold as “bath salts” or “plant food” have become an alarming issue. Nearly 60% of “Molly” (MDMA powder) samples tested at Wakarusa, Bonnaroo, Electric Forest and Camp Bisco contained large quantities of or were completely comprised of one or more of these chemicals. Many of these “research chemicals” present very real overdose fatality risks and have been in news all over the world. There were 8 overdoses attributed to tainted MDMA powder at Camp Bisco. Three of those individuals are no longer with us.

An overwhelming majority of tested LSD samples were negative for the chemical. In the best-case scenario, the sample was just paper. In most instances, the LSD we tested contained compounds such as DO(x), a dark hallucinogen with a three-hour onset (leading to multiple doses) and can last for over 24 hours. Overdose effects include memory loss, irrational and sometimes violent behavior and the possibility of causing harm to oneself. At high doses, analogs of this chemical have the power to change the way the mind works permanently.
What we are doing to help


The Bunk Police deploys an array of chemical reagent tests to identify substances and cutting agents. These tests, although not completely definitive, give us a very good idea what the powder, pill or paper contains. We can test for well over 20 chemical compounds and we are constantly trying to expand our knowledge and capacity to test. The testing equipment that we use at our campsite is the same as has been using for over a decade. In addition to these standard tests, we also have the same tests that are used by the State Department, DEA and many EMTs.

Mobile Testing Centers

In addition to a stationary camp, we equip our volunteers with mobile testing kits and send them into what we call “hotspots” where substance sales are taking place openly. When in these locations, our volunteers simply set up a station right there where the action is taking place. On multiple occasions we were able to inform a dealer that he or she was selling a dangerous product leading to its removal from the market.

Outreach Program

We are able to identify substances in most cases, however many of the people we deal with are unprepared for the information we’re giving them. In order to deal with this issue, we have compiled comprehensive yet easy to understand reference materials and have volunteers ready to assist in informing our patrons.

Information Sessions

I personally conduct a brief information session every day of each event on the changing substance market and drug identification. I will cover the methods used to disguise dangerous cutting agents and how to know what you’re taking is real, as pure as possible and safe. Ents, I come to you weary from battle and in need of advice. Myself and my small group have been working long hours all across the U.S. testing substances and spreading awareness for the last six weeks. We’ve been raided by the Hell’s Angels (security at Camp Bisco) and harassed by the Police and other security forces. In attempting to remove dangerous substances from the market, we’ve run into some of the most intelligent, kindest people and some of the most twisted, greedy and evil souls that this world holds.

If you believe in our cause, please do what you can to help us with the following dire needs:
1) Legal advice
2) Advice on becoming a nonprofit
3) Help in constructing a website
4) Help in advertising online, at events and anywhere else it might be appropriate (headshops, etc.)
5) Help in manufacturing and shipping test kits
6) Help at events
7) Financial advice, accounting and contributions.

My partner in this operation is heading back home to his family, leaving only myself to continue the crusade. I feel that I am driven enough and more than capable of continuing this, but I must try and appeal to others in order to expand the efforts of this entity I’ve created. Thank you so very much for your time and consideration.

Love and Light,




The Trip!Wire is a service provided by the Trip! Project that allows community members to directly text questions around drug use, sexual health and harm reduction. You can text the Trip!Wire at (647) 822-6435 but keep in mind that it may take up to 24 hours to recieve a response. For drug related emergencies such as overdose don't hesitate to contact 911! Questions submitted to the Trip!Wire will be reviewed by Trip! outreach workers. A short answer will be texted back to you. The questions will later be used to generate blog posts providing a more indepth answer.

Syndicate content

Follow us: