Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Smart Meters as a Human Rights Violation?

The BC Human Rights Tribunal has decided that there is a complaint that could be heard with respect to wireless smart meters though it is not entirely clear if there will be anyone that can meet the criteria.  The media is reporting it as a quasi win for the Citizens for Safe Technology but I think it is much less clear than that.

I think the complaint is people opposed to greening the power grid looking for any last straws to grasp to try and stop BC Hydro modernizing the grid.

The focus of the complaint is that Citizens for Safe Technology Society asked for wired smart meters to be provided by BC Hydro to people with a health diagnosis saying they should avoid wireless meters.  BC Hydro quite reasonably refused because the expense to provide wired smart meters for people that are suffering stress and blaming radio signals for it.  The BCHRT was deciding if there was a complaint to be heard.

Tribunal member Enid Marion decided that there could a complaint heard if the complaint met the following:
  1. The individual is a resident of British Columbia. 
  2. The individual resides in a residence and/or a residential complex that gets its electricity from Hydro. 
  3. The individual has been advised, in writing, by a physician licensed to practice medicine in all or part of Canada, to avoid, for  reasons of illness and/or disability, residing in a residence and/or residential complex at which a wireless smart meter device is operating. 
  4. The individual, on his/her own behalf or by way of a representative, has requested, as an accommodation, that Hydro refrain from installing and/or operating a wireless smart meter at the individual’s place of residence and/or residential complex 
  5. Within three weeks of making the request for accommodation, the individual has not received an unconditional written commitment from Hydro that it will refrain from installing and/or operating a wireless smart meter at the individual’s place of residence and/or residential complex. (“Defining Characteristics”) 
This is a reasonable set of criteria and ultimately the only aspect that really matter is the third and much of the decision talks about this.   Without a diagnosis nothing can happen.

From the ruling:

[34] Third, I accept that the complaint, with one exception, alleges various disabilities, including EHS. The exception is the reference to “unspecified medical conditions”. In my view, such an assertion is too vague to form the basis of a complaint.  
[35] I also agree with Citizens that it is not necessary, at this point in the proceeding, to provide medical proof of an alleged disability. Such evidence would be required in the context of an application to dismiss the complaint, a hearing on the merits of the complaint, or at the request of the Tribunal as a preliminary matter.

The ruling says the complaint is too broad.   The tribunal decision also does not decide if anyone meets the terms of being ill with some EHS or something similar or even if there is anything at all like EHS at all.

[56] First, I agree with Hydro that the complaint casts too broad a net. It is simply unmanageable to have a plethora of various medical conditions that must be proven and linked to the adverse treatment. The issues and evidence respecting whether the various conditions constitute a disability, whether there is a nexus between the disability and the adverse treatment, and if so whether Hydro either has proven a  bona fide  reasonable justification for the installation of wireless Smart Meters or reasonably accommodated the disability will be of differing complexity and focus, dependent on the nature of the alleged disability.  
[57] Second, while I accept that membership  in a class may be open-ended, the defining characteristics must be specific enough to clearly delineate membership. I agree with Hydro that, as currently framed, any person with a medical condition, diagnosed or undiagnosed, could conceivably fall within the class. Such broad membership means that that there will be divergent issues of fact and law among the members of the class, given the types of evidence and legal arguments  to be made in respect of each alleged disability, the impact (if any) of wireless Smart Meter technology on the disability and the form of resultant accommodation required, if any. 

[58] 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.  

Clearly for someone to have a complaint the person has to be able to have a doctor's note with a diagnosis with a specific remedy of not being near any radio signals.  What this means is that any complaint will focus around the doctor's diagnosis and it will be a battle of experts.   Since all the science indicates that radio signals are not harmful to humans it will be effectively impossible to get a complaint accepted because of this hurdle.

A GP somewhere in BC diagnosing something that does not exist as an ailment is going to have really hard time justifying the diagnosis in any sort of formal tribunal setting.

Here is the ending of the decision:

[77] In summary, I have concluded that the complaint alleges a potential breach of the Code, Citizens is an appropriate representative, but that the class, as currently defined, is overly broad. 
[78] If Citizens wishes to amend its complaint to restrict the class to those persons allegedly diagnosed with EHS who have been advised to avoid wireless technology, then it must file such an amendment within 30 days of the date of this decision.  

[79] If it does so, then the Tribunal will schedule a pre-hearing conference call to discuss any issues arising out of the amendment, including whether to invite written submissions or, alternatively, hold a hearing on the discrete issue of whether or not EHS is a disability for the purposes of the Code.

What is also important here is this decision does not decide if EHS is actually a disability as described in the Human Rights Code.   That would have to proven first.

BC Hydro can now apply to have the complaint dismissed on the grounds there is no such thing as EHS.

One final thought on smart meters, who clearly suffers the most from the switch to the smart grid in BC?  Who loses the most money through that shift?   As far as I can tell the smart grid will cost the grow op business in BC a fortune of money.  Right now grow op operators can steal power to their heart's content without almost no danger of being caught, once the smart grid is in place power theft becomes very hard to do.   I have to wonder what involvement there is from the BC drug underworld in opposition to smart meters.

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