Tensions over wind turbines boiled over briefly at town hall Tuesday night after an aboriginal from Six Nations interrupted a councillor in mid-speech and told him to “lower your voice.”
Wearing a traditional headdress and holding a feather, the aboriginal was standing next to Stephana Johnston of Clear Creek to support her while she asked elected officials to study the health impact a wind farm has had on people living in the far west end of the county.
He apparently didn’t like the way Charlotteville Coun. Jim Oliver was questioning Johnston – who has talked to council numerous times about the ill-effects she says she and her neighbours have suffered from the spinning blades of the turbines – when he made the comment.
Mayor Dennis Travale banged his gavel and told the man and another aboriginal standing on the other side of Johnston they had to sit down.
Initially, they refused and remained standing.
“Respect our council as we respect yours,” Travale told the men, who then went to benches in the public gallery where they joined another 10 or so aboriginals also wearing headdresses and holding feathers.
Johnston has been at the forefront of public opposition to wind turbines for many months. She insists she can no longer live in her Clear Creek home and that her neighbours have been sickened and in some cases forced to move due to the infrasound waves produced from the spinning blades. One person, she said, committed suicide.
On Tuesday night, she asked council to order the local health unit to conduct a study of the 70 people in her area of the county who have signed a petition saying the turbines have impacted them negatively.
Johnston, a retired school teacher, suggested health officials also choose a similar area near the lakeshore in Haldimand County where there are no turbines to conduct a comparative study of people’s health.
The matter has been referred to the advisory committee of the board of health the two counties share. Johnston will have to make her presentation to that body in January.
On Tuesday night, elected officials expressed fear that the study might be a waste of time. Sole authority over approvals for green energy projects rests with the province, not municipalities, and Queen’s Park has not taken opposition to wind turbines seriously, they noted.
“I hope you have the courage to do in your power what you can do,” Johnston told council. “You have the power to create this study and send it to the province and the minister of health. Why not do that on our behalf?”
The survey, she added, would be a “pilot project” and could spur other town halls to order similar studies.
Patti Moore, manager of the health unit Norfolk and Haldimand counties share, expressed reservations over whether the health unit has the expertise or the money to carry out such a study.
Previous studies in other jurisdictions, Moore noted, were done by people with PhDs and probably had special funding.
Travale suggested to Johnston that she ask Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett to table a private member’s bill in the legislature supporting her cause.