Community voices on proposed TELUS tower: Call for an open dialogue

Close-up of a microphone lit by a purplish light.
A consistent request to TELUS from residents and SRD Director Anderson is for a more robust community consultation on the proposed tower. Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash
Anastasia Avvakumova - CKTZ - Cortes IslandBC | 24-01-2022
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This is Part 2 of a two-part series of interviews with members of the Cortes Island community. Listen to Part 1 here.

A growing number of Cortes Island residents are pushing for a more involved community consultation regarding the latest TELUS cellular tower proposal on Tla’amin Nation land. 

The 63.1-meter tower is currently a stand-alone proposal with a deadline of Jan. 31 for public feedback.  

In late spring 2021, TELUS had proposed three towers in three different locations across the island. The Strathcona Regional District (SRD) asked TELUS to defer their plans until another telecommunications project, the Connected Coast fiber-optic internet, was completed, likely by the end of 2022. Despite the request, the latest TELUS proposal came some six months later in December 2021. Sited on Tla’amin Nation land, the current location requires no approval from the SRD.

The consultation process is headed by Brian Gregg of SitePath Consulting, as contracted by TELUS.

"It looks a bit bad to me that he has now brokered a deal [with Tla'amin Nation] knowing that he doesn't have the support of our community," said resident Mike Brown.

"It also seemed from his perspective, building a tower was an absolute non-negotiable as if it was already decided that a tower was going to be built and he was just consulting on where it was going to be," said Tamias Nettle.

Nettle is currently researching the contentious topic of potential harm from electromagnetic frequencies. Health Canada has created guidelines for the public to learn more on the safety of radiofrequency exposure. 

Regional Director Noba Anderson recently decided to step in as a mediator, organizing virtual meetings that would allow the public to hear from representatives from TELUS, CityWest/Connected Coast, Tla'amin Nation and Klahoose First Nation. However, only the Klahoose Nation has accepted the invitation. Anderson may go ahead with a meeting this week due to many constituents asking for more information.

Anderson also appealed to all those writing in to remain courteous, whatever their position on the tower.

In the meantime, on Tideline, Rob Chapman, Cortes resident with three and a half decades of varied experience in the telecommunications sector prior to his retirement, shed light on why some of the above-mentioned concerns are deemed beyond the scope of the consultation TELUS is required to conduct.

As an external consultant to TELUS, Brian Gregg is not authorized to speak publicly on the corporation's behalf. TELUS media relations staff Lena Chen shared the following statement:

"TELUS has initiated a robust consultation process for our planned work on Cortes Island. We first began our consultation activities more than a year ago, and most recently began consultations specifically for the proposed cell site on Tla’amin Land. We have had many conversations with Tla'amin Nation and the residents of Cortes Island about the need for a wireless infrastructure to provide reliable wireless connectivity to the community. We have been and will continue to engage in dialogue with both Tla'amin Nation and residents of Cortes Island on our proposals. Following the end of the consultation period, TELUS will summarize the feedback and share it with our land use authority, the Tla’amin Nation, and our governing body, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.

We look forward to keeping residents updated throughout the consultation process and looking forward to enhancing services on Cortes Island."

Listen to the full CKTZ News report below: