Council adopts environmental declaration

Letter authored by 10-year-old spurs action by local municipalities

  • Apr. 6, 2015 7:00 p.m.

Erin Haluschak

Record Staff

Taking a similar position as Cumberland, Comox council adopted an amended version of the declaration of the right to a healthy environment Wednesday at the committee of the whole meeting.

Voicing hesitation on its financial and staffing implications, council ultimately voted unanimously in favour of supporting a more “motherhood”-style statement then the one presented via a letter by 10-year-old Rupert Yakelashek of the Songhees and Esquimalt First Nations.

“It’s great to see young people getting involved at this level,” explained Coun. Barbara Price, who supported the declaration in full. “Several municipalities have passed it – I would like us do the same.”

The declaration and letter came about after Yakelashek and his sister attended Blue Dot Tour events with David Suzuki, which inspired people to ask their municipal governments to make a declaration recognizing the right to a healthy environment.

Yakelashek said the end result is to ask the federal government to amend the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to guarantee the right to live in a healthy environment.

Coun. Hugh MacKinnon said the original declaration – which asked the Town of Comox to apply full-cost accounting, the precautionary principal, consider targets and timelines by Dec. 31, 2015, amongst others – might be better for consideration at the Association of Vancouver Island and Coastal Communities convention, (which takes place in Courtenay April 10-12) or at the Union of B.C. Municipalities meeting.

Richard Kanigan, the Town’s chief administrative officer, said the declaration as originally worded would have an impact on resources.

Mayor Paul Ives noted the Town does already apply many of the principals laid out in the declaration.

“There is another aspect that is somewhat troubling … the deadline and objectives here are things that we are already doing. There is a role for council and individual members to be advocates, but it’s up to us to pick and choose what we want those to be.”

Price suggested because the Town is already doing many of the suggestions, once a year council can look at the declaration and see how it is working.

Coun. Maureen Swift said while it’s hard to argue against a healthy environment,  the Town, “is already doing a good job. The motion is broad and has huge implications for Town of Comox staff and taxpayers.”

She inquired how, when staff wouldn’t be available, can council set goals without guidance?

“I think we do a pretty good job already; we already have enough on our plate.”

Ives suggested the declaration can be modified to capture the essence of the declaration without over-committing Town resources.

MacKinnon put forth the amended motion which notes the Town of Comox endorses all people have the right to live in a healthy environment, including clean air, water, safe food, access to nature, to know about pollutants and contaminants released into the local environment and to participate in decision-making that will affect the environment.

It also states the Town call on the provincial government to enact a provincial environment bill of rights to fulfil the right of every resident to live in a healthy environment by supporting favourable consideration to the matter at the UBCM convention.

• • •

In conjunction with the AVICC April 10 at 5 p.m., a rally is scheduled in support of the Blue Dot Movement at the Florence Filberg Centre. For more information, search Blue Dot Rally – Comox Valley on Facebook.

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