Cell Background



Electronic Devices Guidelines - BC

We have been advised, informally, that Amateur Radio will be exempt from the Distracted Driver’s Legislation.  This is a huge win for Amateur Radio.

 I would like to thank those of you that talked to your MLA’s, your Served Agencies and other government organizations that Amateur Radio provides services and volunteers to.  We have had significant support from Emergency Management BC, PEP, and many of the organizations that we all support.  Your professionalism and dedication to our hobby, and what we can do to support emergency communications, has been recognized.  I would like to thank you all for your efforts 

We will still need to wait for the official word, but this is outstanding news, and I am highly confident that this will become law.  Thank you all – in particular those of you that took the time to write or call me, and threw your support behind Radio Amateurs of Canada and the approach that we were advocating. 

Take care, and the very best of the season to you and yours.

Thank you and 73

Bill Gipps

Director, BC & YK, Radio Amateurs of Canada


604 328 0111 Mobile


P.S. Now that this appears to be behind us – let’s start thinking about the Olympics and letting the world know about the 2010 Olympics.     More information is here http://www.ve7isv.com/2010_olympics.htm and here http://www.voarg.ca

091202 - Here is  a letter sent to the Solicitor General's office:

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December 1st, 2009

William E. (Bill) Gipps

9362 – 206A Street

Langley, BC

V1M 2W6

Mobile: 604 328 0111


Director, BC & YT, Radio Amateurs of Canada

Attention: Honourable Kash Heed

Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General

PO Box 9053 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria BC V8W 9E2

Telephone: 250 356 7717
Fax: 250 356 8270


Dear Sir:

Radio Amateurs of Canada Inc. (RAC), is the national association representing over 50,000 Amateur Radio Operators in Canada.  As the Regional Director for RAC, I represent over 8,000 Amateur (Ham) Radio operators in British Columbia, many of whom are significantly involved in Public Service.  We are very concerned that the new Distracted Driver’s legislation does not exempt federally regulated and certified Amateur Radio Operators.

As a group, we strongly support any legislation that makes our roads safer, reduces risks to our families and friends, and makes it easier for law enforcement to do their job.  Hams have always been ready volunteers, and having our own radio communications equipment in our own personal and work vehicles, strong communication skills, and our own independent radio infrastructure, separate from government, Telco  and the cellular network is of huge benefit to local and provincial governments, and the served agencies that we support in times of emergency.

Many Hams have installed extensive radio setups in our vehicles that would allow us to communicate under the most adverse conditions, act as temporary repeaters at regionalized disaster sites or pass essential traffic to local or government agencies from anywhere in the Province.  This investment varies from Ham to Ham, but is in the $200 to $5,000 plus range per vehicle.  This is an investment made by individual hams.

It is the daily use of this equipment which keeps our skills sharp.  It is essential that Hams have the ability to ‘train the way we would fight’. Why would Hams install communications radios in their cars if they couldn’t use them, or if it attracted undue law enforcement attention?  If the equipment is not installed in our vehicles, it would not be  available in a mobile environment to report problems, call for assistance, or support our served agencies.

Significant portions of the Province do not have any cellular coverage, and we are all aware of how quickly the existing cellular infrastructure is overwhelmed in even small disasters.  Our equipment provides valuable communication assets where nothing else may work, or even be available.

I am Federally licensed by Industry Canada as an Amateur Radio Operator since 1989, under the federally regulated Radiocommunications Act. For the last twenty plus years, I have operated my two-way radio station, both in fixed mode and mobile mode without an incident of any kind. I, like many of the eight thousand licensed amateur radio operators in British Columbia, have put a lot of effort into ensuring we operate our radios in a safe manner, in both a fixed or mobile mode.

I can not recall any accident involving a motor vehicle that was attributed to an Amateur Radio Operator operating their radio at the time of the accident. This bill will restrict the ability of an Amateur Radio operator to use their radio equipment in a mobile environment, to assist in the event of disaster or emergency.  A radio microphone can be dropped while driving, with no consequences, should there be a driving emergency.  Why is it still legal to drive and drink a hot beverage in a cardboard container – try dropping that in a driving emergency!

Amateur Radio operators provide emergency and public service communications on a volunteer and uncompensated basis. Many thousand of hours of volunteer time and leadership is provided at virtually no cost to all levels of government.  Amateur Radio is an avocation, which is intended by the Federal department of Industry Canada to encourage and promote technical self training, international goodwill, and non-commercial communication service (particularly with respect to emergency communications).  Amateur Radio operators are also responsible for many advances in electronics and telecommunications technology over the past 100 years.

The two-way radios used by amateurs in their vehicles are operated with hand-held microphones and fixed mounted speakers.  Unlike cellular telephones, the speakers are not held to the ear.  The radios remain in the receive mode most of the time; transmissions are in simplex mode and are brief and infrequent (simplex – only one person talking at a time – unlike duplex cellular calls where both individuals can be talking at the same time).

The microphone is held only when a transmission is being made or is imminent, and otherwise is stowed in a position where the operator can reach it without removing his or her eyes from the road. Amateur operators often conduct mobile communications exercises as participants in networks of stations, controlled by a fixed station, not unlike commercial dispatch mobile radio systems. Radio amateurs have regularly used mobile two-way radio systems for the past 70 years.

The Province of British Columbia encourages mobile amateur radio operations as a public benefit.  Every Municipality in British Columbia is required to have an emergency plan in place, and the Provincial Emergency Program (PEP) encourages each Municipality to include amateur radio into their plan.  How does PEP plan to operate in the field when the users of the radio equipment, be it their own people or their backup amateur radio operators, are restricted in their use while operating in mobile mode?

To aide the authorities, the Province of British Columbia  has issued personalized vehicle license plates for many years to motor vehicles of licensed radio amateurs showing their Industry Canada assigned call letters, in order to identify a particular vehicle as a mobile radio equipped and/or an amateur radio operator driven vehicle. The ability for an amateur radio operator to use their radio while mobile in a motor vehicle is a very important part of their function in their relaying of information from the field to a central dispatcher and then on to various government departments or other served agencies.

During non-emergency times amateur radio provides communication service for a number of public service events which include the Vancouver Marathon. Without the services of Amateur Radio, the Marathon would not have been able to operate over these many years. It is the behind-the-scenes use of amateur radio that supports the runners by providing medical, therapy and aid dispatch throughout the course.

For Amateur Radio Operators to safely operate their vehicles and their two-way equipment it is imperative that they be trained, and be able to practice. It is only through the day to day continued use of Amateur Radio while in mobile mode can the Amateur Radio Operators be properly trained in its safe use. There is no point in having the equipment mounted and ready for use, if the operators have not been trained in the proper use of the equipment while in a calm environment, so that they can ready to serve when called upon, and be able to perform that service in a stress filled environment.

There is not one service anywhere in the world that trains during actual emergencies. All training is done in non-emergency activities, and it is that repetitive training to the point where it becomes routine that really permits the operator to perform their service well during an emergency.  If Amateur Radio Operators are restricted in their use of two-way radio equipment operation while in their vehicles, they will, over time, not mount their equipment in their personal vehicles. In this case, when the need or emergency happens, Amateur Radio operators will not be equipped to perform their requested service, and it will have a significant negative impact on the ability of local and provincial governments and their agencies, to provide the services within the budgets that they have.  In addition, if this happens, think of the loss of these highly skilled, self trained and self equipped Hams from the ranks of volunteers that are so essential in times of need.

In many large-scale disasters, Amateur Radio is the only form of communication that functions. Think of Katrina, the Tsunami of 2007, the Firestorms in BC, and the earthquakes around the world. The examples all show one thing - that “When all else fails, Amateur Radio is there”

The simple approach for this government to take is to add a clause to the bill such as;

“Communication apparatus &/or persons licensed or permitted to operate under the

Canada Radiocommunications Act are exempt”.

This one line would negate the need to make separate amendments for police, fire, ambulance, public service, amateur radio operators, and other licensed users of the radio waves, who might need to be specifically named under the proposed law or regulations.

In all cases, the person, the equipment or both are licensed under federal law. It would also avoid any challenges to the law over federal-provincial jurisdictional issues.

Since neither cell phones nor their users are actually licensed, they would not be exempted.

However, if any of the exempted people abused common sense, they too could be charged for careless or dangerous driving under existing laws. The intent of Bill 15 is to make highways safer by prohibiting drivers from demonstrable high-risk activities such as handheld cell phone use, text messaging, and watching entertainment videos. This must be balanced with the historically low risk presented by trained Amateur Radio Operators who have passed a rigorous Government of Canada regulated examination in order to earn the privilege of operating Amateur Radio equipment. After decades of mobile Amateur Radio operations, there has been no concern voiced by this province or any other province in Canada and I note that the provinces of Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, Ontario, Manitoba and now Saskatchewan exempted Amateur Radio from the provisions of their provincial equivalents to BC’s Distracted Driver’s legislation.

In closing, to ensure that Amateur Radio remains a viable resource for emergency response officials and public service activities, I request that the Province exempt Amateur Radio operators from their Distracted Driver legislation.  I am more than willing to make myself available to your office to discuss these concerns, and / or demonstrate how we utilize our equipment day to day in our vehicles.

Yours sincerely,


W.E. (Bill) Gipps


Director, BC & YT

Radio Amateurs of Canada




091023 - Here is an excellent overview from Richard Ferch VE3KI, Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, Radio Amateurs of Canada

I am not a lawyer and what follows is not a legal opinion, but I do have considerable knowledge about regulatory legislation gained from a career working for a regulatory agency. I will describe my understanding of regulatory legislation, followed by a layman's analysis of the Bill.

Regulatory legislation is generally written on two levels: an act, which is passed by the legislature, and regulations made under the act, which are put into place by the government (in provincial legislation, the "Lieutenant Governor in Council"). The act generally sets out broad objectives, prohibits a class of activities or whatever else it is intended to control, perhaps authorizes the government to issue authorizations (licences, certificates, etc.), and gives the government the authority to make regulations that specify (the word used in legislation is "prescribe") more precisely what is allowed and what is not allowed, or that include or exempt certain classes of persons, activities, things, etc. from the application of the prohibitions, authorization requirements, etc. in the act. When the act refers to something that is "prescribed", that generally means something that is described in a regulation made under the act.

After the act is passed by the legislature, the government drafts regulations as described in the act, and once those regulations have gone through the regulation-making process, the act and the regulations are both put into effect, usually on the same day, by a government proclamation. In Ontario, it took several months between the time Bill

118 was passed and the time the regulations were made and the prohibition on cell phones came into effect.

The BC legislation appears to me to fit the above description very well, and hopefully the above description helps make it more understandable.

To summarize the Bill:

Subsection (10.11) gives the Government the general authority to prohibit drivers from using electronic devices, either by regulation or by imposing conditions on licences.

Section 214.1 defines what is covered by the legislation. In the definition of "electronic device", paragraph (a) includes hand-held devices that include a telephone function. I don't know exactly what this would cover, but my understanding is that there is a precedent in Quebec that suggests that a microphone with a DTMF keypad has a telephone function, whereas a microphone with no DTMF keypad does not. I do not know whether this distinction would apply in BC or not.

The other paragraph that is probably going to be of interest is paragraph (c), which says that the Government may prescribe in regulations other types of equipment as being included. For example, regulations made under the authority of this paragraph could be written so as to prohibit the use of two-way mobile radios, or of hand-held microphones, while driving.

The definitions of "use" probably cover most actions that need to be covered, but just in case something was left out in the other paragraphs, paragraph (d) allows the Government to prohibit other actions through regulations (e.g. manipulating a Morse code key, for example).

Section 214.2 is the actual prohibition on the use of electronic devices, section 214.3 grants an exemption to public safety officers, and section 214.4 permits the use of hands-free devices, so even if two-way radios were later to be prohibited in the regulations, this section would allow a hands-free arrangement to be used. Regulations could also be made that would define exactly what kinds of hands-free arrangements would be allowed.

Section 214.5 allows the Government to make exemptions. For example, the Government could make a regulation exempting certain classes of radio operators, or certain kinds of radios, or certain types of activities, from a more general prohibition that would otherwise apply.

Section 214.6 sets out the actual regulation-making powers.

If the Bill was passed exactly as is and no regulations were made under it, the main impact on amateurs would appear to be on whatever might be covered by paragraph (a) in the definition of "electronic device", which might include some kinds of radios or microphones used by amateurs.

However, under this bill the Government would also have the authority to include other devices, such as two-way radios and/or hand-held microphones, in the regulations describing the devices that are to be prohibited. It would also have the authority to exempt persons operating in the amateur radio service, or to exempt certain categories of radios or microphones used by amateurs. This regulation making power could be used both ways, either to help us or to hurt us, and what is in the regulations could be more important for amateurs than what is in the act itself. Therefore we will not know the final impact until the regulations have been written and published.

Incidentally, some amateurs may wish to use the argument that the provincial government does not have jurisdiction over radios. However, I cannot see anything in the province's proposal that would interfere with any of the federal Government's powers set out in the Radiocommunications Act, and I do not believe there is anything in the Radiocommunications Act that would prevent the province from prohibiting drivers from using radios while driving on public roads. This opinion is consistent with the answer RAC received from Industry Canada officials when we asked a similar question about the Ontario legislation. Their answer was that there is no overlap or conflict. Indeed, the provincial legislation applies to Industry Canada's own inspectors.

A parallel example might help illustrate this: Banks are regulated by the federal Government under the Bank Act, and have the authority to carry out business as banks under that federal legislation.

Nevertheless, provinces and municipalities can pass legislation and zoning regulations that, among other things, prevent banks from building branch offices on land that is zoned residential. The fact that banks are federally regulated does not mean that banks are exempted from complying with provincial and municipal zoning regulations. Similarly, the fact that radio communications are federally regulated does not mean that authorized radio operators are exempted from complying with provincial regulations that prescribe what drivers of vehicles on public roads may or may not do while driving.


Richard Ferch VE3KI

Vice President, Regulatory Affairs

Radio Amateurs of Canada


091022 - Well it is getting interesting.   The Provincial government has released its draft legislation, and it is not Amateur Radio Friendly.  We need to get organized, we need to be professional, and we need to be coordinated.  Stay tuned for more information.  Here is a link to the BC Proposed Legislation http://www.leg.bc.ca/39th1st/1st_read/gov15-1.htm

091001 - Information on the Ontario Distracted Driver Legislation

Emergency Response Personnel

Police, fire department and emergency medical services personnel will be permitted to use hand-held wireless communications devices and view display screens in the normal performance of their duties.

The use of hand-held radios by amateur radio operators (who provide assistance, especially in emergency situations such as severe storms and blackouts) will be phased out within three years, to allow hands-free technologies to be developed.

Commercial Drivers

A small percentage of drivers in transport-related industries (e.g., school buses, taxis, couriers) and public service workers (e.g., transit and highway maintenance workers) rely on the use of certain types of wireless devices and display screen technologies in the performance of day-to-day operations.

To help these businesses stay competitive, Ontario is granting a three-year phase-out period for the commercial use of two-way radios, including mobile and CB radios, to allow for hands-free technologies to be developed.

The new law will not affect mobile data terminals, logistical tracking devices and dispatching devices.  They will be exempt for commercial and public service vehicle drivers who are engaged in the performance of their duties.

Hand-mikes (push-to-talk systems) and portable radios (walkie-talkies) may be used in a hands-free mode.  This would mean the driver can use a lapel button or other hands-free application as long as the hand-mike or walkie-talkies is not held while driving.

There still may be a need for further clarification since the only specific reference to amateur radio is in reference to portable hand-held radios.

Here's the Ontario URL's for reference.





090907 - Stay tuned - we will be getting more information in the near future - we need to stay focused and organized in order to win this battle.

090802 - Below I have a sample letter expressing concerns about the proposed legislation.  Please feel free to cut and paste it into the response on the website.  Modify it as you see fit, and please make sure you sign it with your name, call sign, and any and all affiliations to clubs or emergency programs (include items such as 'Past President', etc.)  Please strive to be as professional as possible.  The link to the feedback site is further below.

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As a Federally Certified Amateur Radio Operator, I support the intention of legislation to limit or eliminate the use of cell phones for texting while driving and non-hands free conversation.  However, I am strongly opposed to this legislation applying to Amateur Radio Operations.  I have some serious concerns about the proposed ‘Distracted Drivers: Use of Cell Phones and other Technologies while Driving’ -  possibly also including restricting the use of Amateur Radio two way radios. 


Although the proposed language has not yet been published, it is our experience that legislation in similar jurisdictions does not initially exempt Amateur Radio Operators and their two way radio equipment.  As in most other jurisdictions in North America and Hawaii, an education of the law makers invariably leads to an exemption for two way radios operated by Licensed Amateur Radio Operators.


Many Licensed Amateur Radio operators are heavily involved in volunteer work with Provincial, Municipal, and City departments, and other served agencies within government. We provide backup communications systems at little or no cost to government agencies, as well as provide highly trained and trustworthy individuals that serve agencies that include ESS, PEP, and the Provincial Emergency Operations Centers (PREOC’s).  These individuals selflessly give of their time, training and personal equipment in support of government initiatives.  When all else fails, Amateur Radio gets the message through.


Many Amateur Radio operators have invested and installed $200 to $5,000 in radio equipment and antennas in their vehicles to provide local and regional communications in the event of emergency or disaster, when conventional means of communication are unavailable. Without the ability to use this equipment on a day to day basis, there is absolutely no incentive to install this equipment; therefore this pool of ready, trained, skilled, self equipped volunteer communication specialists may very well be lost.

Routine day-to-day communication and the use of the radios while driving is essential to reinforce safe radio operating techniques while at the same time maintaining the safe operation of a motor vehicle.  This repetitive day-to-day use, in a non-stress environment, will translate into safe operation during a stress filled emergency environment.

The Amateur Radio (HAM) community asks you, as law makers, to specifically exclude the use of Amateur Radio two-way radios in your proposed cell phone legislation.




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Please click on this link, and then scroll down to the applicable feedback box.  Please modify this text as you see fit to reflect your personal views and concerns.




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