Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
Government of British Columbia
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
Mayor – Lisa Helps,
Councillors – Marianne Alto, Stephen Andrew, Sharmarke Dubow, Ben Isitt, Jeremy Loveday, Sarah Potts, Charlayne Thornton-Joe, Geoff Young