An Environmental Declaration for Richmond Hill

It is about a month away from Earth Day and about a year since our Environmental Strategy – Greening the Hill : Our Community, Our Future was passed. When I was encouraged by a resident to pass an Declaration for Richmond Hill it was quite appropriate. I am proud to move the motion that we passed at Committee of the Whole on March 24th.

The David Suzuki Foundation started an initiative calling for Municipalities to recognize the Right to a Healthy Environment, and to ultimately have rights to a healthy environment in Canada enshrined as a Human Right. He explained this to us, at his visit to Richmond Hill last year during his Blue Dot Tour. He proposed that this process start with municipalities like ours signing a environmental declaration. It is hoped that other municipalities will follow our lead and do the same, which will lead to the Provincial, and more importantly, the Federal Government following too.

I really appreciate David Suzuki and his work in Canada and abroad with regard to the environment – he has been synonymous with environmental protection for as long as I can remember, and I have followed his work for many years now. I have also found it interesting to note that his work and approach to environmental protection has changed and matured as time has gone on. His tone is still optimistic and realistic but the urgency of his message has most definitely ramped up as he has become older. One of the changes to his approach is increased reliance on a more “grass roots movement’ to effect some of the needed changes to environmental policy in Canada.

As of today over 69,000 Canadians have signed his Blue Dot Pledge including 270+ people in Richmond Hill. This is the most signatories of any of our York Region Municipalities and for that I am very proud of our residents

In terms of effecting environmental policy change, a municipality is in an unusual but unique position. We have limited power over policy decisions about the environment such as pollution that is created in one place and effects another, such as green house gas emissions, fuel economy standards, or acid rain. However, at the same time we have maximum connection with our electorate and this puts us in a position to encourage change at a grass roots level by beginning at a Municipal level.

To quote the David Suzuki Foundation David Suzuki

  • Municipal governments make decisions that affect transportation, housing density, waste disposal and other issues related to the quality of the environment. Local governments also have the power to pass bylaws to protect residents from environmental harm. A municipal declaration recognizing the right to a healthy environment would show support for residents’ rights to clean air, water and safe food, signal municipal leadership in building a healthy, sustainable community and draw attention to the Canadian Constitution’s silence on environmental issues.

 

Our economy and our relatively privileged way of life in Canada and Richmond Hill is dictated and/or constrained by our environment. We can only do what mother nature says we can do in the environment that we live in. If our environment is healthy we reap the rewards – if it is not healthy we pay the price. There is no question that this is true.

Our past environmental accomplishments in Richmond Hill have been impressive. As long as I have lived here, I have considered our Town to be responsible stewards of the environment. This feeling became much stronger when Council and citizens began working on, and ultimately passing, our Environmental Strategy – Greening the Hill a few years ago.

In our Greening the Hill Environmental Strategy we state that our mission is : To become a more environmentally sustainable community; to protect, enhance and restore Richmond Hill’s natural environment through responsible community development, sound municipal management and community programming.

I am particularly proud of this commitment because, I feel We have a special obligation in Richmond Hill given that we are on the edge of the oak ridges moraine, we are stewarts of much green space, and are at the headwaters of 3 rivers – The Don, The Rouge and The Humber. As such, our actions effect not just our citizens but millions of people in the GTA and those bordering the Great Lakes including those in the USA.

The motion that Council passed further formalizes and solidifies our commitment to a healthy environment in Richmond Hill and also encourages other municipalities and levels of government to follow our lead. The movement for Municipalities to sign Environmental Declarations is gathering momentum but, we are only the second in Ontario to sign this declaration so I think it is particularly important that we stepped up to the plate.

In our country we have had, and will continue to have, huge challenges to maintain and improve our environment for future generations. Like many issues dealing with the Environment, this sometimes seems like an impossible issue that a little Municipality like ours could make a positive difference towards. To quote David Suzuki – Things are only impossible until someone says they are not. We have the opportunity in Richmond Hill to make a difference by passing this motion and I am proud that we showed leadership and did just that.

The Motion that passed at CoW last night is contained below

 

MEMBER MOTION

Section 5.4.4(b) of Procedure By-law

Meeting:                    Committee of the Whole

Meeting Date:          March 23, 2015

Subject/Title:            Town of Richmond Hill Declaration

The Right To A Healthy Environment

Submitted by:          Councillor West

Whereas on April 28, 2014, the Town of Richmond Hill approved its Environment Strategy, Greening the Hill: Our Community Our Future, which specifies goals, objectives, actions and timeframes to support its commitment to a healthy environment;

Whereas Richmond Hill has shown, and continues to show, demonstrated commitment and leadership regarding the natural environment, as outlined in the recently approved Environment Strategy;

Whereas The David Suzuki Foundation’s Blue Dot Tour recently visited Richmond Hill, and in this visit Mr. Suzuki outlined the need for local communities to pass municipal declarations respecting people’s right to live in a healthy environment;

Whereas a significant number of our residents showed support for this message by attending this speech and by signing the Blue Dot pledge asking governments at all levels to commit to a Declaration of Rights to a Healthy Environment;

Whereas the Mayor and Council of the Town of Richmond Hill understand that people are part of the environment, and that a healthy environment is inextricably linked to the well-being of our present and future community;

Therefore Be It Resolved that the Town of Richmond Hill finds and declares that:

  1. All people should have the right to live in a healthy environment, including:
  • The right to breathe clean air
  • The right to drink clean water
  • The right to consume safe food
  • The right to access nature
  • The right to know about pollutants and contaminants released into the local environment
  • The right to participate in decision-making that will affect the environment
  1. The Town of Richmond Hill, within its jurisdiction, will strive to protect, enhance, and restore its natural environment in support of these rights.
  1. The Town of Richmond Hill is committed to supporting the protection, enhancement and restoration of the environment by:
  • Fostering education and outreach;
  • Collaborating through partnerships;
  • Supporting the development of connected communities; and
  • Reporting our progress towards reaching our goals.
  1. The Town of Richmond Hill forward a copy of this declaration to the provincial government, federal government, the Association of Ontario Municipalities (AMO) and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) to show support for recognizing the right of all people to live in a healthy environment.

Moved by:         Councillor West

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MEMBER MOTION

Meeting:                    Committee of the Whole

Meeting Date:          March 23, 2015

Subject/Title:            Town of Richmond Hill Declaration

The Right To A Healthy Environment

Submitted by:          Councillor West

Whereas on April 28, 2014, the Town of Richmond Hill approved its Environment Strategy, Greening the Hill: Our Community Our Future, which specifies goals, objectives, actions and timeframes to support its commitment to a healthy environment;

Whereas Richmond Hill has shown, and continues to show, demonstrated commitment and leadership regarding the natural environment, as outlined in the recently approved Environment Strategy;

Whereas The David Suzuki Foundation’s Blue Dot Tour recently visited Richmond Hill, and in this visit Mr. Suzuki outlined the need for local communities to pass municipal declarations respecting people’s right to live in a healthy environment;

Whereas a significant number of our residents showed support for this message by attending this speech and by signing the Blue Dot pledge asking governments at all levels to commit to a Declaration of Rights to a Healthy Environment;

Whereas the Mayor and Council of the Town of Richmond Hill understand that people are part of the environment, and that a healthy environment is inextricably linked to the well-being of our present and future community;

Therefore Be It Resolved that the Town of Richmond Hill finds and declares that:

  1. All people should have the right to live in a healthy environment, including:
  • The right to breathe clean air
  • The right to drink clean water
  • The right to consume safe food
  • The right to access nature
  • The right to know about pollutants and contaminants released into the local environment
  • The right to participate in decision-making that will affect the environment
  1. The Town of Richmond Hill, within its jurisdiction, will strive to protect, enhance, and restore its natural environment in support of these rights.
  1. The Town of Richmond Hill is committed to supporting the protection, enhancement and restoration of the environment by:
  • Fostering education and outreach;
  • Collaborating through partnerships;
  • Supporting the development of connected communities; and
  • Reporting our progress towards reaching our goals.
  1. The Town of Richmond Hill forward a copy of this declaration to the provincial government, federal government, the Association of Ontario Municipalities (AMO) and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) to show support for recognizing the right of all people to live in a healthy environment.

Moved by:         Councillor West