Every man, woman, child and animal in a municipality is entitled to have access to safe drinking water, but residents in the Juan de Fuca are not.
That’s the issue that strikes Juan de Fuca Regional Director Mike Hicks right between the eyes, he said.
At the Committee of the Whole meeting of the Capital Regional District on April 29, discussion ensued on the draft Regional Sustainability Strategy. It is a revised and amended version of the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS). The RGS is a strategic planning document that addresses regional issues such as transportation, population growth and settlement patterns. What had been looked at, at the meeting, was a provision that no new water servicing would extend beyond municipal boundaries.
In it, municipalities are allowed to change their context statements and serve their whole municipality with water, the Juan de Fuca is not allowed the same privilege.
“I don’t have that right,” said Hicks, and it is what he wants.
There are currently about 400 families from the Highlands to Shirley who depend on trucked-in water delivery.
“The bottom line is I find it unlawful discrimination and against Section 15 of the Charter of Rights, which guarantees equity and fairness to all Canadians,” said Hicks.
He said he would be demanding that all areas of the Juan de Fuca be defined by their boundaries and be potentially accessed for water similar to municipalities. Piped water is available in East Sooke, Otter Point and Port Renfrew.
In the Juan de Fuca there are seven Official Community Plan areas, one of which is in the Rural Resource Lands.
“I would not demand water for that area,” he said.
He said he isn’t screaming for more development but urban/rural sprawl should be determined by each community through their OCPs.
He said planning and zoning should not be done through water - which is a god-given right, and water should not determine density. Hicks wants to protect smaller water systems in the JdFEA, like Kemp Lake, Shirley, Mt. Matheson and others.
Some directors and environmentalists in the CRD feel access to water would increase density and create urban sprawl.
The irony, said Hicks, is that the CRD endorsed a resolution adopted at the Association of Vancouver Island Coast Communities conference to support David Suzuki’s Blue Dot, a movement to recognize every Canadian’s right to live in a healthy environment.
To pass, the RSS must be endorsed by every single council in the CRD and Hicks is counting on the District of Sooke to stand by him.
“The bottom line for me is if I fail to get the support from municipalities, I’ll legally challenge the RSS under the Charter of Right,” Hicks stated.
The debate will continue next month. The meeting was adjourned as legal advice is being sought on the legitimacy of the Regional Sustainability Strategy.