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New rules on cell tower construction announced by the federal government this month are a step in the right direction, says Oakville-based Canadians for Safe Technology (C4ST).
The policy, which promises to keep local residents and municipal governments at the forefront of the tower placement process, closes a major loophole and provides residents with notification on a telecom company’s intentions to build new antenna towers in their community, the local lobby group told the Oakville Beaver recently.
Wendy Perkins, C4ST’s national team co-lead for legislative change, said in the past, a telecom company was only required to consult with the community when it planned to build an antenna tower taller than 15 metres high, leaving room for smaller towers to pop up without community input.
“This is a loophole that long needed to be closed,” she said.
However, municipalities still have little authority over the placement of towers even though the notification and consultation process has been beefed up, Perkins said.
It also remains to be seen whether building mounts and rooftop antennas are included in this policy, something Perkins believes should be considered.
“In this case, distance can be your friend. Our objective is to increase the distance between wireless radiation emission and where people live and work to increase their safety,” she said.
Public health is the group’s primary concern and the policy doesn’t go far enough to address the biological health impacts, said Perkins.
“This is a good step, at least people will be more aware, more often, that an antenna is being located close to them, but it does not solve the issue in any way,” she said, adding C4ST continues to lobby Oakville MP Terence Young to bring their concerns to the appropriate channels and government.
The group hopes there will be legislative change in the wake of a current review of Health Canada’s Safety Code 6, which establishes safety limits for human exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic energy.
Ward 1 Councillor Ralph Robinson has seen a 14.9 metre Bell Mobility cell tower and a series of commercial antenna/towers atop an apartment building nixed in his ward over the last year because of community backlash. He said he’s unsure how far the policy will go, but is pleased some progress has been made, noting Oakville politicians, residents and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) brought concerns to the federal government more than two years ago.
“It’s long overdue,” he said, noting that a telecom company will think twice now because it faces new criteria that will make it more difficult to erect a tower unnoticed.
Still, Robinson said the final decision on whether a tower can be built and where, still belongs to the federal government’s Industry Canada.
He believes the call should rest with the municipal government.
Mayor Rob Burton agreed, noting cell tower placement should be under local control.
The mayor criticized the new federal antenna tower siting policy for making few changes.
“Even after this new change, the Industry (Canada) can put cell towers wherever they want and community is powerless to stop them,” he said.
Burton also said he’s still waiting to see a Private Member’s Bill Young promised to introduce in Parliament more than 1,000 days ago aimed at getting securing municipal control over cell towers in their communities.
Young said the Bill has been ready for months, but he was waiting on the cell tower policy changes, as he believes those changes were a direct response to the work he has done to bring to light the issues raised by the town and residents concerned about the safe use of cellular technology.
Young said now he’d like to hear from Oakville Town council, C4ST and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) to see how they’d like him to proceed.
The MP sent a Feb. 24 letter asking that they publicly support his Private Member’s Bill, which if passed, would give local land use authorities the final say if there should be an impasse.
Young noted under the now revised process, municipalities will likely succeed more often in their efforts to have proposed antennae tower locations moved or rejected, but his bill would make it so municipalities would get their way in every case.
Young added while he thinks the policy is “a great example of government that listens to local communities and is fully engaged in issues raised by my constituents in Oakville,” he knows more work still needs to be done, especially when it comes to addressing health concerns.
He said he’s constantly in touch with C4ST and is committed to addressing the community’s concerns.
For more information about the cell tower policy, visit www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/smt-gst.nsf/eng/sf08777.html.