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Resident with 'electro-sensitivity' issues urges Tiny to nix new cell tower

Council sympathy to resident’s plight tempered as added deputations ask township to ‘take on the sword’ against cell-tower radiation; mayor bristles at task
A coverage map from Rogers showed what two proposed cell towers could provide to the Cedar Point and Thunder Beach areas of Tiny Township, as seen in this 2023 presentation to council.

A cell tower proposed for 1445 Cedar Point Rd. was met with some ground resistance from local and, interestingly, some national opponents to the upgrade that would service hundreds in the northern part of Tiny Township.

Following a presentation last summer by Jay Lewis of Forbes Bros. Ltd., on behalf of Rogers, Lewis returned to the committee of the whole to present a brief slideshow along with a request for concurrence to proceed toward construction of a 60-metre self-support cell tower.

Before Lewis’ matter could be addressed, council members heard from Melissa Chalmers, a local resident who provided a heartfelt open deputation regarding her condition dealing with 'electro-sensitivity'.

Chalmers, who said she worked as an airline pilot for 25 years and relocated to the township following "radiation poisoning" from cell towers at previous residences in Ontario, had asked Tiny councillors to hold off building the tower near her home.

The activation of the Cedar Point Rd. tower would likely cause further detriment to her health, she told council members, offering that safer internet to residents could be utilized through fibreoptic cables, broadband and satellite connections.

The deputation held council’s attention as her affliction prompted sensitive questions probing her symptoms and how they manifested.

Chalmers described the non-ionizing radiation injury to her nervous system – electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS), also called microwave illness – as having symptoms of heightened absorption of electricity that “can’t dissipate fast enough. 

“I have to find areas radiation-wise so my cup isn’t overflowing with what I’m absorbing,” said Chalmers, who added she did the deputation to ensure others don't end up like her.

Chalmers deputation was followed immediately by three other open deputations, all speaking in opposition to the cell tower.

Frank Clegg, CEO for Canadians for Safe Technology, informed council as he spoke of Safety Code 6 – the Health Canada radiofrequency exposure guideline used by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) that regulates cell towers and other wireless communication equipment. Clegg challenged Health Canada and the code, stating it was based on science from 1929 and last received a minor revision in 1979.

Mayor Dave Evans said to Clegg: “Not to pass the buck, but – we’re not tiny, but we’re one municipality of 440 in Ontario – so you’re basically asking us to take the lead on something that… before we take up that charge, we better know what the ground rules are, or what’s been going on.”

It was a repeated theme as a deputation from Marg Friesen came from Manitoba advocating for wildlife protection against cell tower radiation, and Sheena Symington from British Columbia reiterating cell radiation shielding usage in hospitals.

Council’s questions became more pointed to why Tiny was the battleground as the deputations continued. Coun. Steffen Walma asked Friesen how she came to know of the issue, with the reply that the afflicted Tiny resident had provided the information on the Tiny meeting and request for concurrence.

Evans challenged Friesen with increasing terseness.

“At the beginning, you said that we should back off and do environmental investigation,” Evans remarked. “A pretty broad request for a township that has a budget of $17 million; and like you said there’s 50,000 cell towers in Canada? Before we start taking on 50,000 cell towers – honestly, I think it’s a little bit unrealistic that you’re coming in here asking us to do this with very little chance of success. 

“I’ve also got a whole bunch of people that live in that neighbourhood that don’t have cell service, and are going to be asking me: ‘why we don’t have cell service, why don’t we have any coverage up there’?

“I’m a little leery of dumping on us to come up with the environmental justification that this is actually happening and that we are going to lead the charge on this. I have no problem investigating it and I appreciate the presentations, but to come in and basically ask us to take on the sword for this and move forward with it is a little bit [crosstalk],” said Evans as Friesen quickly apologized to reiterate her position.

Following these exchanges, Lewis provided his formal deputation on the cell tower, stating that Rogers had complied with the requirements including a public meeting that was attended by 10 residents and just four letters of concern mostly addressing the aesthetics of the tower.

According to Health Canada, cell towers ‘operate at a higher power than cell phones but the radiofrequency EMF they emit is much further away from your body’, adding that ‘exposure level from such antennas (are) usually much lower than your exposure level from using a cell phone.’

Lewis noted to council that he would have provided a different slideshow presentation which explained the safety of cell-tower radiation had he known there would be the previous open deputations. Upon questioning, he also admitted he did not consult Beausoleil First Nations regarding the cell tower.

Coun. Kelly Helowka, noting an assumed correlation between modern cell-tower radiation and high-voltage power line corridor health concerns from previous decades, stated he would research the matter. Dave Brunelle, who had attended opposition to a proposed cell tower in Penetanguishene last year, questioned planning and development staff but was told that Rogers and Forbes Bros. Ltd. fulfilled the requirements to their satisfaction.

The committee of the whole passed a 4-1 resolution in favour of the request for concurrence, with a request that Lewis provide the alternate slideshow and correspondence against the cell tower prior to the next meeting of council where the matter could be ratified.

The presentation slideshow by Forbes Bros. Ltd. can be viewed on the agenda page on the Township of Tiny website.

Archives of council meetings are available to view on the township’s YouTube channel.

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Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

About the Author: Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Derek Howard covers Midland and Penetanguishene area civic issues under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada.
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