FAQ & Disclaimer: Since the Bell-Drago tower proposal was made public in the summer of 2013, we have been having a lot of great conversations with those who live in our community. We will attempt to address some of the most frequently asked questions, and concerns people continue to have. We are by no means experts on the topic and though we have expressed our understanding of the issues to the best of our ability, all information should be verified independently. We will link to sources whenever possible so that you can read more and come to your own conclusions on this important issue.
Q: Didn’t Bronte just go through this fight with Bell? Isn’t there already a Bell cell tower at the Fire Station?
A: Yes, and yes. And while the Drago’s location was cancelled, we know the story is not over. As for the Fire Station tower, a bit of history… Bell installed and activated their antennae at the Bronte Fire Station despite public outcry, despite medical experts warning of the dangers, despite it overlooking homes, church, a school and a daycare in a residential zone. You can view the Town Hall meeting surrounding the Fire Station tower here. That fight continues, as the residents have gone to great personal expense to protect their children and families. In fact, C4ST (Canadians for Safe Technology) is the organization that grew from that particular cell tower situation. You can read more about them here.
Q: But why would we need another tower so close by?
A: Industry Canada mandates telecommunication companies to “co-share” towers whenever possible. The reality is that this does not always happen, as we continue to see the proliferation of these towers. Read this article “Bell challenges…tower-sharing rules in court.”
Q: What was different about this proposed tower at Drago’s than the one at the Bronte Fire Station?
A: The Fire Station tower is located on municipal land and had prior approval from the Halton Police Chief and Fire Chief before council voted for its erection. The tower was originally erected to facilitate emergency transmissions only but contractual omissions 15 years ago allowed for this proposal to proceed. The proposed Bell-Drago tower would have been located on private property in a residential zoned area. In combination with the activities carried out at the auto body repair shop, the siting of this particular tower was a concern because of the potential harm to residents. There are existing Town of Oakville by-laws to protect residents from such harm, and this was the general message in the petition which can be viewed here. Each tower situation is different, unique to the location, environment and existing by-laws, which is why we believe that municipalities need to have greater control and input in their placement. The final say on tower placement currently resides, however, with Industry Canada.
Q: Wasn’t there another tower proposed in Bronte in the summer of 2013 that got cancelled?
A: Rogers had proposed a radio communications site on top of the apartment building at Bronte Estates. The owner of the property responded to the concerns of the residents, and the installation has been postponed pending the outcome of the review of Safety Code 6 (Health Canada’s code governing the emissions from such towers. More on that below).
Q: I use a cell phone. I need good service for work, emergencies, etc. Aren’t cell towers just a part of life now?
A: So many of us have cell phones and have come to rely on them for communication. This issue isn’t just about cell phones, surprisingly. It is about the responsible implementation of infrastructure. The directive for the placement of these structures lies with the government.
Q: Why doesn’t the government do anything about this?
A: Would it surprise you to learn that all local representatives of our municipal, provincial and federal governments agree on this issue?
1. The Town of Oakville unanimously approved a motion stating, amongst other things:
THAT Industry Canada be advised that the Town of Oakville does not concur with the location of radio-communication facilities that are located:
a. within 200 metres from a sensitive land use including residential uses;
(read the full motion here)
2. Kevin Flynn, MPP, has a petition at his office with signatures from concerned residents. You can add your name to it. He says:
I started a petition in May 2012 asking the federal government to put in place guidelines for these towers and to protect residents. You can view the reading of the petition into the Queen’s Park Hansard by visiting the following link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6RjGDMuUu4
3. Terence Young, MP, stated this summer that cell towers remain the biggest issue in Oakville. From his newsletter:
As MP, I am fully engaged with this issue. I have been working with C4ST, the Minister of Industry, Minister of Health, and my parliamentary colleagues, to challenge the authority at Industry Canada and Safety Code 6. I will be tabling a Private Member’s Bill this fall which would amongst other things transfer the final say on where cellular towers can be placed to municipalities.
Q: With so much agreement and support from our representatives, why do these towers continue to be built so close to our homes and schools?
A: We wish we had a good answer for this! We have the same questions you might… is it because the telecommunications industry is profitable? Is it because the industry is concerned about incoming competition? Are they trying to buy the real estate now to have a better control of the industry? Are they doing all this without regard for the very customers they purport to be serving?
Q: What’s wrong with cell towers anyway? Convince me that these towers and radiation are so bad.
A: Health Canada’s Safety Code 6 (the set of codes that governs this type of radiation) is outdated and recently underwent a conflicted review. Safety Code 6 does not take into account the biological effects on the human body, nor the effects of this type of radiation on children and pregnant women. In 2011, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) deemed this type of radiation as a class 2B carcinogen and it has been recommended that children reduce exposure to cell phones. We think that the research behind exposure to this type of radiation is only beginning to be understood and until we are certain that they are not harmful, the precautionary principle should be adhered to. This includes having a reasonable set-back between these towers and homes, schools and other sensitive areas. This is what we are asking for in our community, and for communities like ours across Canada who are dealing with this very same issue.
Q: I let my child use a cell phone. Are you saying I’m a bad parent?
A: Letting your child use a cell phone is a choice you can make and many of us make. The difference between a cell phone and a cell tower is that you can turn off a cell phone and limit its use. If your child uses a cell phone, you can teach them to do it with the phone away from their heads (children’s skulls are thinner and more susceptible to electromagnetic radiation).
Health Canada also encourages parents to take these measures to reduce their children’s RF exposure from cell phones since children are typically more sensitive to a variety of environmental agents. (source)
…while a cell tower on the other hand, is on full power, 24/7, blanketing this radiation without the option of turning it off…whether you use a cell phone or not. This is a significant difference.
Q: Cell phones and these towers are here to stay. What’s the point of fighting the giant corporations?
A: We are fighting for the health of our communities and the people who live here. We as consumers need to send a message to these corporations. We are at a pivotal point in the telecommunications industry where a new spectrum will be auctioned. From the Globe & Mail, August 16, 2013:
The auction is important because the winners will gain the right to use high-quality spectrum that can travel long distances and penetrate buildings easily, improving service for customers.
This sounds great, but as consumers, we need to make educated choices. It’s not just about dropped calls on cell phones anymore. Demanding services like watching live streaming t.v. on our phones while sitting in our basements has significant implications. If we as consumers want to subscribe to such services, we have to understand that we are sending a message to our telecom providers saying we want more of these towers, more of this radiation that can penetrate cinder blocks (and potentially, the people who live within). It’s too soon to know the full effects of such infrastructure and widespread radiation. But until then, we do have a choice and responsibility in this. With each new tower that is erected in residential and sensitive areas, we lose a little more of that choice.
Q: Do you feel you’re getting anywhere with this?
A: We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t! All levels of government have a role in this, and progress has been made incrementally. But it will not happen overnight. It will take many small steps towards positive change over the long term, and this will not happen without individual awareness, community pressure and cooperation between all parties involved (political or otherwise).
Look at all the progress that has been made just this year:
- January 2014: Bell-Drago tower cancelled!
- February 2014: Industry Canada announces update to outdated loophole re. towers less than 15 metres in height
- March 2014: Industry Canada opens public consultation on tower siting procedures
- April 2014: Scientists speak out about conflicted review of Health Canada’s Safety Code 6
- Today: Work continues at all levels to create meaningful change…
Check out our timeline to see all the progress and work being done. This is not a hopeless cause. We all have a role in this, and none of this would be possible without you.
Q: Ok, what can I do?
A: We’re glad you asked! Click here to read more about what you can do.