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Monday February 25th, 2013

Fifteen years ago, Daniel Wickard, then councilman for Ville Marie, lost his 16 year old daughter to a drug overdose. Her death would set off a chain reaction that would culminate in the closure of countless rave venues, most of them on properties owned by various churches.

"There was a time in Montreal that you couldn't throw a rock without hitting a church full of ravers," says Jerome Gauthier, a former rave promoter. "The churches figured they were serving the community. Better for ravers to dance somewhere safe than in an abandoned building, you know?"

That all changed when Daniel Wickard's daughter, Lisa, overdosed on marijuana. "After Lisa died from smoking too much weed at a happy hardcore party, her dad went on the war path. He started harassing all the churches around Montreal , demanding that they stop renting out their property to ravers," says Jerome. "Wickard rallied the troops at city hall, and soon the mayor was pressuring the priests to kick the ravers out."

Raves migrated from church basements to abandoned factories and warehouses. "The city of Montreal pushed raving underground when they stopped churches from renting out their properties to party promoters," says David Noodleman, a 20 year veteran of the rave scene.

Recently, the church has begun reconsidering its party ban. "After our last mayor retired, several priests started reconsidering their no-raves policy," says Rev. Darren Boyard of the First Unitarian Church. "Children need somewhere to go, and we consider renting our basements to ravers as a form of community outreach. In the past, we made mistakes by not ensuring that the laws were properly enforced at these parties, but our church has teamed up with the police to guarantee that ravers have a safe and healthy environment to party in."

David Noodleman says it's a step in the right direction. "There's been half a dozen church parties over the last eight months, and that's a good thing. I think it's sad that Lisa died of a marijuana overdose. I understand why the city decided they had to intervene, but I don't think banning churches from renting out their property to raves was the right move. All that did was shift raving into sketchier locations. Instead of dying of marijuana overdoses in church, ravers were dying of marijuana overdoses in abandonned buildings."
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