Surrey signs declaration backing Blue Dot movement

City declaration says residents have right to healthy environment

Surrey City Council has agreed to sign a 'Right to a Healthy Environment” declaration.

Surrey City Council has agreed to sign a 'Right to a Healthy Environment” declaration.

SURREY — The City of Surrey has signed a declaration recognizing residents’ “Right to a Healthy Environment” after hearing from the Surrey Blue Dot group last summer.

Led by the David Suzuki Foundation, the “Blue Dot” movement is a national effort to amend the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to include the right to a healthy environment.

To achieve this, the group focuses on getting Canadian municipalities to pass declarations respecting the right of their citizens to live in a healthy environment.

In October 2014, Richmond was the first city to adopt the Blue Dot Declaration, and since then, more than 100 other municipalities have done so.

Surrey has now joined that list and according to the group, there are more than 1,000 supporters of the Blue Dot petition in the city.

Coun. Mike Starchuk, chair of the city’s Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee, said Surrey is already striving toward most of the goals in the declaration, pointing to the city’s Sustainability Charter and the recently adopted Biodiversity Conservation Strategy.

“So it’s not a far stretch,” he noted. “It really makes sense.”

The idea was brought to Starchuk’s attention by Norma Hogan, a member of ESAC, who had involvement with the David Suzuki Foundation.

“We got to where we got because she got herself into the position where she made use of her connections,” said Starchuk.

And he’s glad she did.

“Making this declaration, supporting the Blue Dot movement is the right things for us to do,” he stated, encouraging other cities to get on board. “It doesn’t mean anything if the rest of the country isn’t doing it too.”

The city also plans to send letters to the provincial and federal governments calling for legislation that recognizes the same sentiments.

Surrey’s declaration, approved by city council on Jan. 12, states by June 30, 2016 the city will specify objectives, targets and timelines on actions the city will take to address the residents’ right to a healthy environment including: addressing climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions; responsibly increasing density; prioritizing walking, cycling and public transit; promoting the availability of safe, local foods; establishing and maintaining accessible green spaces in residential neighbourhoods; and attracting and investing in green businesses, green energy, clean tech and jobs of tomorrow.

amy.reid@thenownewspaper.com