Town of Oakville leads in cancer prevention initiatives
Oakville takes cancer prevention seriously
The Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) is asking municipalities to take a more active role in the fight against cancer, however, many Oakville councillors say the Town has already done plenty.
In a news release issued in late August, the CCS called on elected officials to support policies to improve public health and reduce the risk of cancer.
“The Society recognizes the important leadership role municipalities and the provincial government have in ensuring healthy communities across the province,” said Florentina Stancu-Soare, senior co-ordinator of public issues for the Ontario Division of the Canadian Cancer Society.
“This is why we are challenging officials to take a more active role in the fight against cancer by supporting legislation that prevents cancer.”
Challenge completed says Ward 1 Councillor and former Oakville Terry Fox Run Chair Ralph Robinson.
Robinson noted the Town’s commitment to cancer prevention could be seen as far back as 2001 when Oakville banned smoking in restaurants.
The Province would not adopt a similar measure until 2006.
“We took the lead on that. A lot of our restaurants and bars were annoyed at us because their customers couldn’t smoke anymore and so they were going to Mississauga and Burlington,” said Robinson.
“That was quite the issue, but everyone seems to be over that now.”
Robinson said, despite complaints, council moved forward on this and other measures because the health of Oakville’s residents was at stake.
Ward 2 Town Councillor and present Chair of the Oakville Terry Fox Run Pam Damoff said the Town beat the Province again in 2007 by passing a bylaw to ban most outdoor pesticides.
The Province would not follow suit until nearly a year later with its Cosmetic Pesticide Ban.
“There are studies that show a link between pesticides and cancer,” said Damoff.
Other measures cited by councillors included the passing of the Health Protection Air Quality Bylaw in 2010, which gives the Town the ability to block new industries, deemed major emitters of cancer-causing pollutants like PM 2.5 (particulate matter), from establishing in Oakville. [Oakville created this rule to stop the McGuinty Gas Plant]
It also allows the Town to label Oakville’s existing major emitters as public nuisances.
More recently, in August 2012, Oakville became the first Ontario municipality to restrict tanning bed use among youths under the age of 18.
The law was intended to protect young people who Damoff said are particularly at risk of developing skin cancer through the use of tanning beds.
A provincial tanning bed ban for youths has been discussed, but has yet to materialize.
A month earlier, the Town passed additional smoking restrictions in Oakville’s public parks.
The law banned smoking within nine metres of numerous places in public parks where children play including fields, playgrounds, splash pads, tennis courts, basketball courts, outdoor pools and skateboard parks.
“I’m pretty proud of what we have done in Oakville actually,” said Damoff.
“I think we are way ahead of the curve in terms of other municipalities.”
Oakville Mayor Rob Burton echoed Damoff’s sentiments.
“Oakville led at the municipal level in fighting cancer with our smoking ban, our tanning bed ban for teenagers, our smoking ban in parks, our regulation of PM 2.5, in short, on all points requested by the Canadian Cancer Society and more, such as healthy lifestyle promotion initiatives, we’re already doing more than the Society is asking,” said Burton.
“Oakville will continue to lead where we can; municipalities have a share of jurisdiction in health protection wherever a higher level of government has not occupied the field.”
While Robinson said the Town is not currently working on any further cancer fighting initiatives he continues to look toward cell towers as a possible future target.
Some, including Robinson, believe the electromagnetic radiation from cell towers represents a health hazard to the public.
At this time, staff say the Town has no authority to block or permit the construction of a cell tower.
Halton Region’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Bob Nosal, has said there is no convincing evidence weak radio frequency signals from cell towers cause adverse health effects.
However, Nosal has also acknowledged the agreement between Health Canada, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the International Agency for Research on Cancer that additional research is warranted.