The Royal Society of Canada released their review of Safety Code 6 today. Safety Code 6 are the Canadian safety guidelines that outline safe exposure levels to radio waves, like WiFi. The review of Safety Code 6 was requested by Health Canada.

Based on their review, the RSC does not feel that changes are needed to the already established health and safety guidelines to further protect Canadians. There has been no new, compelling evidence that convinces them that Canadians are at risk from Wifi signals.

This goes to show that, despite the claims of anti-wifi activists that WiFi is harmful, the scientists who are reviewing the actual science are still unconvinced by the research that there are health risks associated with WiFi.

The RSC review panel was made up of researchers from Simon Fraser University, Western University, the University of Toronto and University of Lethbridge.

Further Reading: Bad Science Watch Endorses Royal Society of Canada’s Expert Panel Review of Safety Code 6

Just in case you are planing on leaving a comment on this site, don’t. I have about 150 comments waiting to be moderated, primarily from 3 or 4 (anonymous) people all covering the same ground in slightly different language. I’ve turned off comments. I can’t keep up with the endless barrage. As you can see, I did let those who feel that WiFi is harmful have their say on this blog. But it is obvious it will never stop. This is a crazy making exercise and it has, indeed made me crazy. I have met my objective, which was to provide a balanced voice to what our local parents and school district officials have been hearing for the past 3 years. The decision to reinstate WiFi in schools signals the end of this for me. Objective met.

After close to 3 years of endless debate, the moratorium on WiFi in Victoria schools has finally been lifted. In a 5-4 vote last night, SD61 trustees voted to lift the moratorium on WiFi in Victoria schools.

As I said in the comments for the newspaper article, I am very happy with the decision by the SD trustees to heed the advice of our public health officials and lift the wifi moratorium. So much time and energy has been spent debating an issue that is (at best) a fringe concern for the vast majority of parents. Perhaps we can now move forward and discuss the real issue that parents want to talk about, which is the role of technology in education and what kind of education system we want to have for our children that best prepares them to live in a world where (for good and bad) 24/7 ubiquitous access to the web is going to be their reality.

Article from the local Victoria paper the Times-Colonist on the results of the VCPAC meeting last night. I am quoted in the piece, which, I think, does a good job at accurately capturing the story.

The one thing I do want to note about the survey is that there were roughly 13,000 survey’s sent out with 2875 responses, making a response rate of just around 21%. I think that it needs to be pointed out that an issue people feel strongly and passionatley about – like wifi being a health hazard – will pull people to the polls. And on the anti-wifi side of the house, you will find passion and energy to burn. I don’t think I am wrong when I say that, for the vast majority of parents (close to 80% according to this vote), this is not an issue that occupies any of their time or thought. So, when we see reports interpreting the results as “1 in 5 parents have concerns over wifi“, we need to keep in mind that those who feel strongly and passionately about an issue, like anti-wifi advocates, will vote. For 80% of parents in this district, this is not an issue they care deeply about, and any interpretation of the results needs to account for that.

This evening the Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (VCPAC) representing 29 school PAC’s voted on a series of recommendations related to wifi in schools. The vote was based on the analysis of the results of the VCPAC parental survey that was circulated to over 13,000 families in the district earlier this month (the survey results are available on the VCPAC website).

At tonight’s VCPAC meeting, the VCPAC voted to make the following recommendations to SD 61 trustees with regards to wifi.

  1. that wifi installations be permitted in all schools
  2. that each school, prior to installation, must obtain the support of their school community using the Selective Consultation policy 1163
  3. that the District monitor WiFi research and respond accordingly and promptly
  4. that the District maintain the most current technology designed to reduce overall emissions
  5. that schools respond to any environmental sensitivities reported by students

Overall, I am happy. The reason I started this site was to make sure parents in SD61 had another perspective on WiFi in schools when this survey came out and I hope that, in some small way, the website helped parents in our district make a decision.

However, there are a few points in the recommendations that I am concerned about. First regarding point #2.  I actually moved that point 2 be struck from the recommendations (probably the first time in my life I have ever made a motion for less community consultation). The point I made was that this issue has been acrimoniously debated in our district for close to 3 years now, and has been extremely divisive. By recommending that each school must obtain support of their school community prior to installing wi-fi in schools, I am concerned that we are setting the stage for this battle to trickle down to individual schools, and the battle that has happened at the maro level now becomes micro battles. My motion to remove the point was defeated (again, how can you argue against more community consultation), but I suspect that should the SD move ahead with these recommendations, this issue will continue to fester and be a divisive issue in our school communities.

I also wanted to speak to point #5 as this recommendation seems to lend support to the fact that wi-fi is, indeed, linked to the medical condition known as Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity. This connection is unproven, as Dr. Richard Stanwick notes in his July 2011 letter to the SD 61 trustees. Yet this recommendation seems to support the notion that there is a connection between WiFi and a medical condition. Additionally, there is scant support for this recommendation in the results of the parent survey, so I am not sure how it made it to the recommendation stage. I wanted to debate this issue at the meeting, but to be honest when I looked around the room I saw many weary parents who are sick to death with this issue and wanted some kind of closure to this issue. I fear that tomorrow morning I’ll wake up and the anti-wifi side will be making claims like, “Victoria parents demand schools make accommodations for children with environmental sensitivities” and that recommendation will be twisted. I hope that is not going to be the case.

I also brought up the point that the major concern of parents reflected in the survey has nothing to do with health of wi-fi, but rather the appropriate use of technology in the classroom. Issues of cyberbullying, digital distraction, and screen time were abundant in the responses – issues that all parents, including myself, are concerned about. I made the point that this was not reflected in the recommendations, and it should be as this is the conversation I think most parents want to have about technology in school, not about the tenuous health risks of wi-fi. When I brought up the concern, VCPAC Chair John Bird assured me that the issue will be addressed in upcoming VCPAC meetings and events.

Short story long, an early victory in that the recommendation to the board is that the current wi-fi moratorium be lifted and wi-fi be allowed into schools. Now, to see if the SD61 trustees will act on that recommendation.

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