Exploring Shambhala’s dark side

For three days over the past 14 years, the Shambhala Music Festival has become the equivalent of a small town with over 10,000 people pouring into the area. And even though organizers and fans rave about the festival’s success, RCMP sergeants Fred Mansveld and Derrick Donovan have seen the event’s dark side.

More than 10

For three days over the past 14 years, the Shambhala Music Festival has become the equivalent of a small town with over 10,000 people pouring into the area. And even though organizers and fans rave about the festival’s success, RCMP sergeants Fred Mansveld and Derrick Donovan have seen the event’s dark side.

“I’ve worked a lot of places throughout BC where there were similar activities and things got better each year, but I don’t foresee that happening with this event. We’ve seen from our focus that things have gotten worse. We’ve been very fortunate, I believe, that there haven’t been more fatalities and serious injuries as a result,” said Sgt. Donovan with West Kootenay Traffic Services.

“In the three short years that I’ve been here the instances involving drugs at road safety checks surrounding Shambhala are going up by 20 to 30 per cent every year, which to me is concerning,” he said.

The West Kootenay Traffic Services worked in partnership with the West Kootenay Integrated Road Safety Unit on the “front lines” before, after and during Shambhala to ensure road safety, including road safety checks in the Salmo area.

“This year we ramped up our exodus enforcement. We were stopping vehicles in road safety checks to try and mitigate the risks and checking for impaired driving, and we did find people who were impaired leaving the site by drug or alcohol, or being impaired by fatigue,” said Sgt. Mansveld with the West Kootenay Integrated Road Safety Unit. “Some of these people look like they’ve gone through the ringer, and although it sounds funny; it translates to people driving off the road.”

Mansveld said that there was a major car accident near Fernie, where a vehicle that was carrying three people who had left Shambhala, collided with a cement truck.

“I’m sure there are numerous other accidents in the region and beyond because people are coming from the states, from Ontario, and all kinds of places,” he said.

One of the major concerns both Mansveld and Donovan have regarding Shambhala is the fatigued drivers leaving the event.

“Last year, after the festival, we were inundated with crashes, I believe there was a total of nine crashes, that we were able to track, some were serious, some were minor in nature, caused by people falling asleep who were tired and over exerted, and tried to make it home. If they’ve been partying all weekend they are a real hazard to other motorists on the highway, and we see that,” said Mansveld.

In addition to fatigued drivers, the road safety units see impaired drivers coming through their road checks both before and after the festival.

The RCMP is recommending charges for eight individual cases of possession of a controlled substance for the purpose of trafficking related to Shambhala.

“In my opinion, from what I’ve seen, a substantial amount of vehicles and people heading to that festival are of course there to have a good time, but also are going to partake in some kind of alcohol or drug use, and perhaps not everybody, but a lot of people are, and this is a big concern that we have, because this goes on for three days in the heat and then people leave,” said Mansveld.

“What we’re all concerned about is the open drug trafficking and the open drug and alcohol use takes place at the rave.”

He said that there are younger festival-goers who go to Shambhala to experiment with drugs for the first time and Mansveld is very concerned about this.

“Some of the drugs that are out there now, although people may think they are buying ecstasy they are not buying ecstasy. They are buying a cocktail of various drugs,” he said. “The people who are out there trafficking drugs are out there to make money, that’s their reason for being there, it’s not that they want everyone to have a really great time; they’re out there to make money.”

Mansveld said that ecstasy can often be made of a combination of methamphetamines, ketamine and ephedrine along with various other drugs.

“We have first evidence of numerous, numerous overdoses that have taken place there. As a matter of fact, I know there is a tent there to take care of that. That’s a huge concern, when you have that many people overdosing, and being treated,” he said.

Donovan and Mansveld feel that the police presence during Shambhala is a significant drain on police resources.

“Our province has less money, and it’s a high per centage of our resources that are spent on this activity both pre and post and I think if tax payers out there knew the true cost – from processing files to court time to the officers time being here from other parts of the province – they would share our concern,” said Donovan.

Despite the positive effect of Shambhala on local economies, he said that Salmo residents would rather not be the home of the festival.

“I would say at least 80 to 90 per cent of Salmo residents are opposed to having this festival, even though they know there is money coming into the community because of this event, it’s just not a festival they think should continue,” said Donovan.


Just Posted

Harrop II launched on Kootenay Lake

The new cable ferry, assembled at Kaslo, is now carrying vehicles between Harrop and Longbeach

Nelson council gets first look at parking survey results

903 residents answered questions about downtown parking and how to improve it

Water advisory issued for South Slocan

Tests have found water quality to be only fair due to turbidity

Selkirk College to make pitch for new student housing on campus

$25 million project would see new student housing built in Nelson, Castlegar

VIDEO: 13-year-old killed in B.C. crash that involved five kids

The children range in age from six to 17.

In a fight against cancer, Victoria man’s only stem cell match was his own donation

More mixed race and Asian stem cell donors needed, says Victoria family

MPs denounce leaked reports of Trudeau-JWR clash over Supreme Court pick

Opposition MPs called the leaks an act of desperation meant to smear Wilson-Raybould

Study says B.C.’s housing policies mean drug users can be targeted for eviction

The study involves 50 people living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

VIDEO: Homicide team called in after three killed in Surrey car crash

Investigators ask public to come forward with information, dashcam video

Stranger climbs onto B.C. family’s second-floor balcony, lights fire in barbecue

Incident in Abbotsford terrifies family with two-year-old boy

Coroner’s inquest announced for Victoria teen’s overdose death

Elliot Eurchuk was 16 years old when he died of an opioid overdose at his Oak Bay home

UPDATED: Sailings resume after BC Ferries boat hits Langdale terminal

The Queen of Surrey is stuck on the dock, causing delays to Horseshoe Bay trips

Eviction halted for B.C. woman deemed ‘too young’ for seniors’ home

Zoe Nagler, 46, had been given notice after living in the seniors complex in Comox for six years

Most Read