Community Articles
Go to Site Index See "Community Articles" main page
General News · 18th January 2022
Noba Anderson
Telus is proposing three cell towers on Cortes Island, an issue that is bringing out an extreme range of opinions. When there is such polarity, we have clearly not yet found the answer. I submit that the wisdom has yet to emerge, wisdom that can only be found through creative exploration and listening. Rather than ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to towers, the conversation worth having would explore our telecommunications needs and interests and the best ways go about meeting them. That is why I am working on hosting a community zoom meeting or two, with resource people, over the next short while prior to the close of Telus’ public comment period about their second proposed tower in the Manson’s area on January 31st. If you wrote in about their first proposal, you will need to write again as none of the letters previously received are now being considered. Read on and contact info is at the bottom on this article.

For a year now, I have been asking Telus to hold off until the Connected Coast fiber optic cable has been connected to your homes (so as to not jeopardize in any way our funding and to see how this addresses our service needs) and until they have conducted a robust community consultation process. Many of you have echoed those requests, but Telus is not meeting them. I have come to the conclusion that the kind of creative community exploration that we need is beyond Telus’ capacity so, if we want it, we must do it ourselves. I’m working on pulling that together and will share the info as soon as I have it.

A year ago, Telus made it known that they wanted to erect three cell phone towers on Cortes; one in each neighbourhood of Whaletown, Squirrel Cove and Mansons. In order to build towers, they need support from the appropriate land use planning authority which, for Cortes, is the Strathcona Regional District - with the exception of lands under the control of First Nations – being here both the Klahoose and the Tla’amin Nations.

Last spring, Telus proposed a tower in Mansons on their privately owned property at the corner of Rexford and Beasley Roads. Many of you wrote into their “public consultation process”; I was copied on 60 such letters. Most of you spoke to the need for a better consultation process. Many spoke generally to your concern regarding, or lack of support for, cell phone towers generally on the island. Only one or two wrote in support. Only a few letters spoke to the specifics of that precise location, and those of you that did mention the specific site shared your concern about it being close to the Mansons village centre. Telus has now shelved that proposal and your letters from last year have fallen into a black hole, neither being summarized no shared with any decision-making authority. When they closed that file, all your input was closed with it. I have been reaching out individually to all that copied me on their letters and asking their permission to share those letters with future decision-makers.

Now, a second Mansons location is on the table just down the road on Tla’amin Treaty Lands at Paukeanum, locally known as ‘the maple tree’. On this land, rather than needing the Regional District’s permission, Telus will need permission from the Tla’amin Nation. And so, their public input process now requires anyone with an interest in the matter to write again. This will be the same case for their Squirrel Cove proposal and again for their Whaletown proposal, each being a distinct file and requiring separate letters. Instead, I have been asking them to treat us as the whole community that we are, share with us their island-wide plans and receive our input as such.

But our island telecommunication interests are much broader than Telus’ tower proposals. For years, Telus has had fibre optic cable running across Cortes Island yet have not provided fibre to our homes due to the expense. This lack of service to rural and remote communities is why the Strathcona Regional District embarked on the epic journey of creating the Connected Coast project and found millions of funding dollars to bring fibre optic cable to communities up and down the Coast, including Cortes Island. That fibre is coming to our homes in the next few months and indeed 98% of you have signed up to receive that fibre to your home! This will be a local game changer in both Internet and Internet-based calling from our land-lines. There are also options currently being explored about how the Connect Coast project could offer emergency phone access along our island road system. What the fiber will not do, however, is provide phone service in the woods and on the water. That is the additional service that the Telus towers would provide to a great, but not comprehensive, extent.

There’s no question, however, that the main thrust behind Telus’ bid to erect towers is to access the cell phone-based Internet market, both on island and on its waters. This will be in direct healthy competition to the Connected Coast project which was created to fill the service gap not filled by Telus.

It looks like Telus has already installed five microcell sites around Cortes Island and Citywest could do the same. Once activated, these microcells provide significant cell coverage in their vicinity. We saw this recently when Telus installed one by the Gorge Harbour Marina and Gorge Hall and another in Heriot Bay. These areas went from no cell reception to excellence reception immediately. CityWest will also be able to install these microcells, and I am asking them to explore how they could add cell coverage along the island's road system as well as population centers.

Furthermore, CityWest will be offering Internet-based landline service that will work for a time when the power is out and can be kept functional indefinitely with a generator in the event of a prolonged power outage. Because the fibre optic cable will be entirely buried in the road right of way and to everybody’s home, it is essentially not damageable by the weather events that take out electricity and regular phone lines. I share this to help underline the complexity of this issue and the service overlaps.

Telus has been clear that their three towers will be 5G enabled and many of you have significant concerns about the health affects both to humans and to the animal world, plants and the Earth’s electromagnetic field. Very little is truly known about the long-term effects of 5G as it is a new technology, but real caution is urged by many internationally. Some deeply value a less connected-all-the-time place. And on the extreme end of concern, some people already experiencing ill health affects from radiation believe that they simply will not be able to live if towers are erected here and that there’s nowhere else to go. Others believe that cell phone access is not only one of the required necessities of modern life but is also needed to save lives and ensure public safety. So, when there is this level of polarization, I submit we have not yet found the sweet spot.

Many of you need support in understanding telecommunication basics such as the difference between fibreoptic and cell towers, the different services they offer, harms and benefits they might cause and the companies bringing them to you.

Telus’ current cell tower proposal on Tla’amin Treaty Lands at Paukeanum is open for public comment until January 31. In support of your informed input, I am doing my best to organize and host a community zoom meeting on this topic, to share information, answer your questions and receive your input. I have invited the following to present and answer your questions: Telus, Connected Coast/CityWest, Tla’amin, and Klahoose. I am also working to get it live broadcast on Cortes Radio for a phone-in option.

If you want your voice heard by Telus and the Tla’amin Nation on the current cell tower location proposal, please read the attached Telus info sheet and by January 31st write to all below:

C/O Brian Gregg, SitePath Consulting Ltd., Land Use Consultant 2528 Alberta Street, Vancouver, BC V5Y 3L1
Phone: 778-870-1388

Tla’amin Nation
C/O Denise Smith
4779 Klahanie Rd, Powell River, BC V8A 0C4 Email:
Phone: 604 483 9646 ext. 121

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED)
250-363-3803 Fax: 250-363-0208

Also, feel free to copy any of your correspondences with Telus to Safe Tech Cortes, a group of residents collaborating to create a meaningful dialog and community led decisions regarding communication needs.

In gratitude, Noba Anderson
Regional Director from Cortes Island
to Strathcona Regional District