At the foot of Surrey’s tallest skyscraper, Surrey City Hall and the Surrey Library, renowned environmental activist David Suzuki expressed a concern for future generations at a ‘Save Hawthorne Park’ rally Saturday afternoon.
In a media scrum prior to the event and during his presentation, Suzuki thanked Surrey city council for being part of the David Suzuki Foundation’s Blue Dot initiative, which moves towards making it a constitutional right for Canadians to have a healthy environment.
In the next breath, Suzuki, who was born and raised in Vancouver, posed the question: “What is a healthy environment?”
“A healthy environment is clean air, clean water, clean soil, but it means a variety of life around us, nature… We live in cities and we think this is a habitat for us. No, you need something to cleanse the air, cleanse the water. We need nature to be with us as well,” he told media moments before standing behind the podium.
Suzuki told the crowd that it was his first time visiting Surrey and “I don’t know anything about this city and I can’t talk about Hawthorne Park or the other issues.”
Although Suzuki said he could not comment on the Hawthorne project, he did make note that there was a concern that “bits of nature you have left in the city are going to be cut down for development.”
“What I’m saying is, we need to have a definition of development that includes the things that keep us healthy. Surrey has endorsed the concept of a healthy environment, now understand that nature is a huge part of that healthy environment. Especially in trees.”
Suzuki made it clear to the crowd that he was not representing the Suzuki foundation, any political party or corporation. He said he was, however, there to speak as an individual, grandfather, a scientist and an elder. More than 200 people attended.
“As an elder, I don’t need to play games or pull my punches because I’m looking for a job, a raise or a promotion. I no longer have to run after money or fame or power or even sex. I don’t have to worry about those things so I can speak from my heart,” he told the crowd. “And if that offends people, that’s their problem and not mine.”
In discussion with the media, Suzuki took issue with governing bodies not representing their people, but did not specifically mention Surrey.
“We have what I think is called a democracy. And in a democracy we tell the politicians what we want. The problem today is two-fold. One is corporations put a lot of money into political campaigns and guess what? Whoever pays the piper calls the tunes. For me, get corporate money out of the political process because they call the shots,” he said.
Another issue, he said, is that only 20 to 30 per cent of people vote during elections.
“That means you don’t have a democracy anymore. People don’t care and they’re allowing city council then to do what they want… I think if you don’t like what’s going on, you got to get more active as citizens.”
Saturday’s event was organized by the “Save Hawthorne Park” group, which opposes city council’s plans of building a road through the park as part of the 105 Avenue Connector project.
After delivering a 5,000-name petition to Surrey council last July, opponents were given until Sept. 22 to collect 30,372 signatures in order to stop the civic government from proceeding with the project.
At the time of Saturday’s event, the group had collected approximately 10,000 signatures.