A local kid is making it his priority to ensure the citizens of Victoria have the right to a healthy environment.
Rupert Yakelashek, 10, went to David Suzuki’s Blue Dot Tour in Victoria in November, where he was inspired to bring about environmental change in Victoria.
“[Suzuki] said that Canada had fallen behind in the environmental race and that many countries have environmental rights, but not Canada,” said Yakelashek.
During the municipal election, Yakelashek brought letters to each of the candidates in Victoria asking them to support a declaration for the right to a healthy environment.
He made a lasting impression on Coun. Jeremy Loveday in particular.
“He really stuck with me as one of the people that stood out from my time campaigning,” said Loveday. “I think it’s a great step for the city to make a strong statement in favour of the environment and for future generations.”
The declaration states multiple environmental rights of humans, such as the right to breathe clean air, the right to drink clean water, the right to consume safe food and the right to participate in decision-making that will affect the environment.
The declaration also states that the City of Victoria should take cost-effective measures to prevent the degradation of the environment and protect the health of its citizens.
Loveday put forward a motion, endorsed by Coun. Ben Isitt and Mayor Lisa Helps, to adopt the declaration.
Yakelashek is going to City Hall on Thursday night (Dec. 18) to bring his message directly to council and relay to it and the public why it is an important initiative to support. There will be a rally immediately prior to the meeting at 6:45 p.m. at the Pandora Avenue entrance to city hall.
“If humans are harming the environment, we’re directly harming ourselves,” said Yakelashek.
While it is a declaration and not a bylaw, Loveday said supporting it at the municipal level is the first step.
“The plan is to have municipalities recognize the right to a healthy environment in declarative statements, and then from there get provinces to make the same statements,” said Loveday.
Eventually the rights could get passed at the constitutional level. More than 100 other countries in the world already have the right to a healthy environment in their constitutions.
“Victoria would be a leader in it as we’d be the first city on Vancouver Island and the sixth city across Canada to sign on,” said Loveday, adding the declaration lines up with the city’s official community plan and could be used as a reference for future projects.
“I think it’s important for Victoria because we’re the capital of British Columbia,” said Yakelashek. “Victoria is considered the leader of British Columbia and is a great influence.”
Supporting this declaration is a strong statement for the environment moving forward, said Loveday.
“If we don’t protect our environment, it’s future generations that are [going to] pay the price for that.”