Letter to Minister Heyman requesting help with City of Victoria Mayor and Council

The Honourable George Heyman
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
Government of British Columbia
george.heyman.MLA@leg.bc.ca

July 21, 2021

Dear Minister, Heyman

I am writing to you for your help and guidance.

I am a resident of Victoria, a member of the disability community and the President of the Multiple Sclerosis Wellness Centre of Vancouver Island. In May of 2020 the City of Victoria Mayor and Council voted to pedestrianize Beacon Hill Park, a 200-acre park near city-centre, to increase opportunities for outdoor social distancing during the pandemic. This meant the temporary closure of a road providing people living with very limited mobility, including seniors, access to the park.

Beacon Hill Park is the only park in Victoria where people who are unable to or have difficulty using wheelchairs or other mobility devices, can journey through the forest without having to travel a great distance to other communities. Family members and community caregivers often take family members who living most of their lives indoors on a drive through the park, and then park their vehicles so they can experience the forest the only way they are able.

Although the original purpose for closing the roads was COVID-19 the Mayor and Council recently voted to keep the park roads closed, particularly Arbutus Way, which is an access point for the community I am writing about. They are now suggesting that closing these roads is part of the city’s effort to reduce our carbon-footprint.

Aside from their dishonest politics, I respect and appreciate their climate action efforts, I am concerned that those of us living with disabilities well be denied other services and called upon more than others to hold the burden of climate change, which is clearly a violation of human rights. Sadly, Beacon Hill Park is not the first place where the city has done this. At some point I fear there will be no-where for those with limited mobility to go outside.

I am wondering if you are able to provide Victoria’s Mayor and Council with a set of guiding principles they can use to help them make decisions related to climate action? Particularly since they have made this decision without validating that closing park roads will reduce our carbon footprint. It may be that they are increasing our carbon foot print by forcing people to drive greater distances for services. They have also not taken into consideration that many vehicles in Victoria have moved toward low to no emissions.

Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

With kindness and respect.

Susan Simmons
President, MultipleSclerosis Wellness Centre of Vancouver Island

CC: 
Mayor – Lisa Helps,
Councillors – Marianne Alto, Stephen Andrew, Sharmarke Dubow, Ben Isitt, Jeremy Loveday, Sarah Potts, Charlayne Thornton-Joe, Geoff Young



6 thoughts on “Letter to Minister Heyman requesting help with City of Victoria Mayor and Council

  1. I am in full support of Susan and all the efforts she puts forth to make sure the best interest of people living with disabilities are given the same rights to enjoy Beacon Hill Park. I don’t support those that have taken up riding electric bikes at top speeds with no regard for pedestrians or the disabled. There used to be symbols with bikes that had a line through them not allowing bikes. I noticed 3 years ago they took those away and repainted the paths and put bike symbols and walking symbols. They are ruining Beacon Hill Park. I am ashamed of what our council has become and our city! 😞

  2. Please open the room ads in Beacon Hill Park again to everyone. This a human rights issue and the exclusivity expressed by Victoria Council’s decision to keep the roads closed, post COVID is discriminatory.

  3. Thank you Susan, for once again, speaking up for those who are being unfairly treated. Beacon Hill Park needs to be returned to the inclusive space it once was. Shame on Victoria’s mayor and council!!!!!!!

  4. I too am so grateful for all you do for your community Susan. Taking the time to advocate for those who may not have the resources to do so. The Victoria City Council continues to ignore the citizens and especially those with disabilities as they charge forward with the bike lane agenda. We need to accommodate those with disabilities and older adults who may only be able to access Beacon Hill via car. This council is beyond reproach and that is not what elected officials are appointed to do.

  5. BHP is entrusted for the use of all the citizens of Victoria. Now may be the time to create an independant ‘park board’ and take the decision making away from the City of Victoria council who repeatedly demonstrate that they can go round and round in circles at the council table to the determent of other important decisions that need to be addressed.

    Taking away access to the wash room for disabled people (to cite but one example) was an example of ill informed decision making by the current council.

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