The anti-wifi group, Citizens for Safe Technology (CST) has filed a complaint with the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal alleging that B.C. Hydro’s plan to install Smart Meters discriminates against those with “electromagnetic hypersensitivity” (EHS) on the basis of physical disability. The group has been granted the ability to file a “representative complaint” and argue the case on behalf of others in the class.
On its website, CST makes all sorts of claims about the dangers of Smart Meters and related technologies. For example, they claim that Smart Meters are a serious invasion of privacy, allowing hackers and other evil doers useful information for planning crimes against occupants, or even the ability to monitor sexual activity – somehow. They also claim that Smart Meters are vulnerable to terrorism, have caused explosions and fires, and cause electricity bills to go up. However, the main thrust of the anti-Smart Meter campaign is the baseless fear that the wireless technology they use is universally harmful to health. All these other claims are more of an attempt to plant the seeds of doubt in everyone’s mind that Smart Meters are a really, really bad idea. You might think the notion that Smart Meters can make you sick absolutely nutty, but you might not like the utility knowing when you turn on your toaster oven (though I doubt this is possible). There’s a basis for outrage to suit any taste.
The latest decision by the B.C Human Rights is being touted by CST as a win even though the current decision makes absolutely no findings of fact regarding the discrimination claim. Nor does it make any pronouncement about the nature of EHS or its status as a disability. All it does is allow them the chance to represent others in court.
A careful reading of the Tribunal decision indicates that the group is probably going to have some trouble. First, the Tribunal severely restricted the scope of the class that CST is to represent. The group wished to speak for those who have been given a doctors note indicating that they should avoid Smart Meters “for reasons of illness and/or disability”. The Tribunal considered the class far too broad:
In summary, the class, as defined, is overbroad. However, a class restricted to those persons allegedly diagnosed with EHS and who have been advised to avoid exposure to wireless technology would be appropriate as a representative complaint.
The question of whether EHS is a physical disability will also need to be established by CST:
I also note in this regard that the disability, or particulars of the medical condition, must be specified. A vague and medically-unsubstantiated reference by a physician to avoid wireless technology is insufficient to constitute a disability. There must be a medical diagnosis, as well as a contraindication for exposure to such technology because of its effect on the medical condition. (Emphasis mine.)
CST claims that a substantial number of people in B.C. have proof from a licensed Canadian physician of medical harm with a concomitant advisement to avoid Smart Meters. This is incredibly interesting, since there is no good evidence that Smart Meters are in the least bit dangerous to anyone. How many people are we talking about? In a statement to the media the director of CST, Una St Clair, claimed that she has a list of 100 people with “medical proof”. The Tribunal document indicates that CST claimed it could produce “dozens” of people who would fit into their definition of the class (not the one ultimately outlined). Interstingly, B.C. Hydro contended that the class boils down to about 45 people who object to the installation of Smart Meters and many of these have unspecified medical conditions.
With the Tribunal restriction of the class, only the people that CST can produce with a specific medical diagnosis of EHS from a licensed Canadian physician, who are also advised to specifically avoid wireless technology are relevant. Who are these licensed physicians and how would they be coming to a diagnosis? Well, it turns out that when CST first filed their complaint with the Tribunal, they decided to collect notes from alleged victims and their doctors to support their allegations. To ensure they had the evidence they needed, a “Doctor’s Information Package” was put together with informational links (most back to the CST site), advice on how to coax a doctor into producing the needed note, as well as explicit instructions on how such notes should be worded:
Wording that can be used:
I have advised my patient that he/she should not have a smart meter attached to his/her house or on his/her property (resident or residential complex). He/she has medical conditions that could be aggravated/worsened by ongoing exposure to wireless radiofrequency electromagnetic fields and Smart Meter emissions.
I am confirming that my advice to you for reason of your medical condition is to avoid residing in a residence or residential complex at which a wireless smart meter device is operating.
My patient is advised to reduce exposure to all types of wireless radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation, specifically including that which is emitted from Smart Meters at his/her home and property, as this may adversely affect his/her condition.
My patient is advised for medical reasons to avoid having wireless smart meters on his/her house and property (resident or residential complex) to maintain his/her health.
It appears that CST didn’t anticipate the Tribunal rejecting the proposed class as overbroad and so did not advise potential participants that the notes should clearly outline a diagnosis of any sort. Or perhaps, the tactic was deliberate – vague references to medical conditions are harder to scrutinize than named conditions that can be contested.
Uh oh. Looks like these folks are going to have to scramble to find doctors willing to give a specific diagnosis of EHS even though it’s not a thing. The fact that the group prodded members into approaching their doctors with information pulled from the internet in hand, and a request to provide a vague note with pre-approved wording for a legal proceeding speaks volumes. If EHS was a valid diagnosis with scientific support, the doctor could easily have determined this themselves by searching the available medical literature. Thankfully, the Tribunal seems to have caught on to the tactic.
Now, in order for the case to go forward, CST must amend the original complaint to reflect the more restricted class and must do so within 30 days. Even if they do this, B.C. Hydro can petition the Tribunal to dismiss the complaint, at which point CST will have to pony up the medical proof that EHS is areal physical disability.
The CST hopes to win the discrimination case and use it as the basis for a class action lawsuit against B.C Hydro. Note that they have yet to file this tort action. They confusingly refer to the Human Rights Tribunal as a class action. It isn’t. Also, the fact that the Tribunal will hear the case doesn’t say anything about the actual truth of any of the claims made against Smart Meters – medical or otherwise (I say this because I can hear some of you out there objecting and saying “Well, there must be something to what they’re saying or else why would they bother to hear the case?”). The Citizens for Safe Technology will still have to prove their case in court and they are on notice as to the kind of evidence they need to bring. Let’s hope that the B.C Hydro legal team is on the ball and brings the full weight of the scientific evidence to bear against these baseless allegations.