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Council declares 'Right to a Healthy Environment'

Council News: Red Cross agreement signed, Mons rezoning goes to third



Whistler council has declared that all people have the right to live in a healthy environment — to breathe clean air, drink and access clean water, eat safe and healthy food, and access nature.

"I've been doing a fair bit of research on this in the last week," said Coun. Steve Anderson, pointing out that the Romans were the first to make a declaration like this.

"It's nice to reaffirm them here in a more formal way."

The declaration comes on the heels of the David Suzuki Foundation's Blue Dot Tour campaign and, more locally, it was spurred on by a letter from Claire Ruddy, of the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE).

After signing the declaration on the Right To a Healthy Environment at Tuesday's council meeting, the Resort Municipality of Whistler now has certain authority to fulfill and promote these rights.

It will be notifying the Union of B.C. Municipalities and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities of its declaration.

RMOW environmental coordinator Tina Symko told council that Canada is among a minority of countries that does not yet recognize the right to a healthy environmental in its national Constitution. More than 110 countries do.

The Suzuki Foundation is calling on municipalities to pass these declarations through the Blue Dot campaign. The goal is to get provinces to follow suit and pass environmental bills of rights, and then to ultimately have citizens' right to a healthy environment recognized in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

At least 25 cities have formally made a declaration, including Vancouver, Richmond and Victoria.

"B.C. communities are leading the charge," said Symko.

"The campaign seems to be gaining momentum."

The municipal declaration outlines how it aligns with Whistler2020. Staff will apply the "precautionary principle" — where threats to human health or the environment exist, Whistler will take measures within its jurisdiction and authority. 

Whistler pens agreement with Red Cross

Whistler will now be able to call upon the Canadian Red Cross Society during minor emergencies.

At Tuesday's meeting, March 3, council approved the Disaster Response Agreement with the Canadian Red Cross Society (CRCS) for minor emergencies.

Those events are defined as emergencies that affect the safety of fewer than 25 people, or 10 dwelling units, whichever is greater.

Among the benefits listed are:

• that the CRCS will have an incentive to build local capacity — there is currently no CRCS emergency response capacity in Whistler;

• to establish a relationship between the municipality and the CRCS in a disaster relief capacity;

• to eliminate the need to have an Emergency Social Services Director.

The agreement will be in place until Dec. 31, 2016. It will cost the municipality a $10,000 donation per year.

Mons rezoning gets third reading

The big commercial rezoning at Mons Crossing, north of Nesters, is in the final stages of approval of its bylaw amendment, receiving third reading at the last council meeting.

The approval comes despite concerns raised by one citizen at the public hearing two weeks ago.

"I'm personally satisfied," said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden referring to the staff answers provided to those concerns.

The project includes a pedestrian underpass at the railway tracks. This was originally anticipated as a bridge, with the municipality responsible for roughly half the cost. The underpass is cheaper to build.

The staff report states: "The design will result in a pedestrian undercrossing of the rail(line) that adequately addresses the existing high water table and addresses the know(n) flood issues in the area. The works are designed to address the site conditions such that there is a safe pedestrian route for crossing the railway which is superior in many ways to the alternate bridge crossing." 

The municipality will spend more than $1 million in this area in 2015 — $718,000 is for half of the bridge, as previously negotiated, the remainder is to complete the Valley Trail section north and south of the bridge.

When complete, there will be a Valley Trail from Nesters to Rainbow on the west side of the highway.


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