Right to a healthy environment for Richmond, B.C., residents

The City of Richmond, B.C., has become the second municipality in Canada (after Montreal borough of Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie) to adopt a municipal declaration of an individual’s right to live in a healthy environment. The full text of the declaration is as follows:

City of Richmond Municipal Declaration
The Right To A Healthy Environment

Whereas the City of Richmond understands that people are part of the environment, and that a healthy environment is inextricably linked to the well‐being of our community;

The City of Richmond finds and declares that:

1. All people 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.

2. The City of Richmond has the responsibility, within its jurisdiction, to respect, protect, fulfill and promote these rights.

3. The City of Richmond shall apply the precautionary principle: where threats of serious or irreversible damage to human health or the environment exist, the City of Richmond shall take cost effective measures to prevent the degradation of the environment and protect the health of its citizens. Lack of full scientific certainty shall not be viewed as sufficient reason for the MUNICIPALITY to postpone such measures

4. The City of Richmond shall apply full cost accounting: when evaluating reasonably foreseeable costs of proposed actions and alternatives, the City of Richmond will consider costs to human health and the environment.

5. By Dec 31st, 2015, the City of Richmond shall specify objectives, targets and timelines and actions the City of Richmond will take, within its jurisdiction, to fulfill residents’ right to a healthy environment, including priority actions to:

a. Ensure equitable distribution of environmental benefits and burdens within the municipality, preventing the development of pollution “hot spots”;

b. Ensure infrastructure and development projects protect the environment, including air quality;

c. Address climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and implementing adaptation measures;

d. Responsibly increase density;

e. Prioritize walking, cycling and public transit as preferred modes of transportation;

f. Ensure adequate infrastructure for the provision of safe and accessible drinking water;

g. Promote the availability of safe foods;

h. Reduce solid waste and promote recycling and composting;

i. Establish and maintain accessible green spaces in all residential neighbourhoods.

The City of Richmond shall review the objectives, targets, timelines and actions every five (5) years, and evaluate progress towards fulfilling this declaration.

The City of Richmond shall consult with residents as part of this process.

This is part of a greater push across Canada for a change in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to specifically recognize the right of all Canadian’s to live in a healthy environment. An in depth and comprehensive analysis of this issue was recently undertaken by Professor David R. Boyd in his book: The Environmental Rights Revolution: A Global Study of Constitutions, Human Rights and the Environment.

James Early