Residents have right to healthy environment, North Cowichan council votes

At the end of a five-hour meeting last Wednesday, North Cowichan councillors still had enough energy to wrangle over a high-minded policy.

They decided to endorse a policy entitled "Right to Live in Healthy Environment" but not without picking it over first.

After stating that "all people have the right to live in a healthy environment, including the right to breathe clean air, drink clean water, consume safe food, access nature, know about pollutants and contaminants released into the local environment, and participate in decisionmaking that will affect the environment," the policy went on to say the municipality has the shared responsibility within its jurisdiction to protect the right to live in a healthy environment so that the municipality must carefully evaluate its actions and even periodically review its community plan with human health and the environment in mind.

CAO Dave Devana said that he and his staff had been as careful with the wording as they could but Coun. Al Siebring still took up arms.

He asked if that meant if his neighbour, faced with a problematic water situation at his home, could reasonably demand clean water from Siebring’s supply.

Coun. Joyce Behnsen agreed, "It’s excessive control. Who starts pointing fingers at who?" She also said that talking about rights to consume safe food are meaningless.

"We don’t have any control over that. It’s huge. It’s running the world."

However, Coun. Tom Walker said that the policy only puts into words a lot of things being done already in the municipality. Coun. Kate Marsh agreed.

Siebring wasn’t done, however. "This is a policy, folks. Think about what you’re doing. What is to prevent Crofton citizens coming to us demanding that we shut down the Crofton mill [because of possible air pollution]?"