Cranbrook’s fluoride question is not going away, despite the recent referendum.

Jason Zimmer, representing a group calling themselves Citizens of Cranbrook Opposed to Fluoride, says they want to find out from the City of Cranbrook what type of fluoride is being added to the water supply, that they feel there are less expensive options available that respect the rights of the individual, and that there were legal issues with the referendum itself.

“We have approached the city to find out where we get the fluoride from, and what kind of fluoride it is,” Zimmer said. “Is it hexahydrofluorosilicic acid, or is it sodium fluoride, or calcium fluoride — what is it? Where does it come from? If this stuff is so safe, how come they’re not letting us know?”

In a response issued by the City of Cranbrook for this story, the details of how the water supply was fluoridated were described.

“The City’s Public Works division adds fluoride to the water system in the form of hydrofluorosilicic acid. A small metering pump at the Phillips Reservoir transfers the hydrofluorosilicic acid from a storage tank to the potable water stream at a concentration of 0.8 mg/l (or ppm), a standard set by Health Canada’s guidelines of between 0.7 mg/l (optimal) and 1.5 mg/l (maximum).

“The hydrofluorosilicic acid is delivered by truck in 20 MT loads. It is stored in a specially constructed tank and a small metering pump draws the hydrofluorosilicic acid for injection into the potable water stream.”

In last month’s municipal election, more than 5,200 residents cast votes on the referendum question — “Are you in favour of Council adopting City of Cranbrook adopting City of Cranbrook Cease Fluoridation Bylaw No. 3799, 2014, which authorizes stopping the addition of fluoride to the municipal water supply effective January 1, 2015?”

Forty-seven per cent voted Yes (get rid of fluoride), Fifty-three per cent voted No (keep fluoride).

The wording of the referendum question has subsequently been criticized, though that’s not an issue with Zimmer.

“That didn’t bug me at all, the way it was worded,” he said. “Maybe a little bit, but that’s not what we’re worried about. We have questions about the legalities surrounding the referendum, according to the Local Government Act and the Community Charter.”

Zimmer says there are two concerns with the recent referendum, and cites the Local Government Act (Division 3, 165 [2]). “Unless otherwise provided under this or another act, separate ballots must be prepared for each question to be voted on.”

“This was not the case for the recent fluoride referendum,” he said. “We have concerns with this process not being abided by and would like clarification from the city.”

Zimmer also cites the Community Charter (Section 94), saying that “a statement of the ten per cent threshold for a referendum requirement and the number of electors that would constitute that percentage” was, to their knowledge, not included in the public notices of the electoral assent.

“We do realize that in the community charter it says the next referendum can’t be for another six months,” Zimmer said. “But if it was done wrong (on November 15) why can’t another be done right away?”

Zimmer says that according to the Local Government Act, “a bylaw for the same purpose may not be submitted to the electors within a period of six months from the last submission except with the minister’s approval.”

“Our question is, which minister is responsible for this approval and what is the process for seeking such approval? Can it be initiated by the citizens of Cranbrook?”

Zimmer and the group have submitted these questions to City Hall and the new Mayor and Council.

“What the City has been telling Mr. Zimmer is that under section 159 (1) and (2) of the Local Government Act, assent of the electors (referendum) to a bylaw or other matter is obtained only if a majority of the votes counted as valid are in favour of the bylaw or question,” read the response issued by Chris Zettel, Corporate Communications Officer for the City of Cranbrook.

“Secondly, if the bylaw did not receive that assent of the electors, a bylaw for the same purpose may not be submitted to the electors within a period of six months from the last submission.

“Mr. Zimmer was given the information he needs to petition Council in order to do so, but even if he petitions the City at the next Regular Council meeting, Council will not have the authority to submit the question again to the electors for a period of six months from November 15, 2014.

“The 10 per cent threshold Mr. Zimmer brings up applies only for Alternative Approval Process under section 86 of the Community Charter,” the City response continued. “The Alternative Approval Process was not available to the City in this case, because Section 68 of the Community Charter applies to fluoridation of the water supplies and it requires assent of the electors (referendum). Section 137 of the Community Charter also states that a repeal bylaw is subject to the same approval as the original bylaw.

“We agree that yes the legislation can be confusing, but we have followed the legislation to the letter when working through the assent to get where we are now.”

Nonetheless, for Zimmer and others opposed to fluoridation, the issue goes beyond a simple referendum.

“It’s poison — they shouldn’t even be putting it in the water,” he said. “We don’t even want a referendum — we want City Council to realize it’s wrong, ethically wrong. You can’t mass medicate a population, according to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“We’re representing nearly half the population that does not want to be fluoridated. The referendum was really close. So half the population gets to choose the medication the other half does not want to receive?”

Zimmer says the City doesn’t need to  spend $30,000 a year on fluoride. “You can get free fluoride from companies. If people want to take, they can get the fluoride for free. The people who don’t want to take it, however, shouldn’t be forced to take it.”

Zimmer wanted to add that he would give $1,000 to any resident of Cranbrook, or $1,000 to any dentist (and a further $1,000 to the charity of that dentist’s choice), if they could supply a peer-reviewed scientific study that disproves any side effects of artificial water fluoridation.