Ten-year old Rupert Yakelashek has made headlines as one of the youngest Blue Dot campaigners, and as a force in gaining environmental rights declarations in Victoria and other Vancouver Island communities. Despite already helping achieve declarations in several municipalities near his home, he continues to write letters to politicians and attend council meetings to speak out for environmental rights. We asked him about his experiences.
How did you get started campaigning for the Blue Dot movement?
Well, I went to my civics class and I learned that children have the least amount of power. Then a few days later I went to the Blue Dot Tour and I got quite inspired.
But also I was flabbergasted that Canada didn’t have environmental rights and didn’t respect the environment.
So I thought, “What can I do to help? I’m just a kid; I can’t choose government officials.” So me and my mom brainstormed ideas, and then we decided on writing letters to candidates for the municipal election in Victoria. We went to the all-candidates meet and greet and we handed out letters to the candidates, saying if you promise to try and make this declaration I’ll convince my parents and everybody else to vote for you.
After the election, Rupert held a rally for a healthy environment and spoke at a Victoria city council meeting. On December 18, the City of Victoria became the ninth Canadian city to pass a municipal declaration recognizing the right to a healthy environment.
How did you feel after the council voted unanimously to pass the declaration?
I couldn’t speak! I was speechless for the first time in my life! And when I got home I had to eat four bowls of ice cream to recover.
After the Victoria city council, we attended six other city council meetings. And we’ve sent letters to all the municipalities in the CRD [Capital Region District], and to municipalities up the Island. I’m still working on those.
Why does this matter to you?
This matters to me because I’m doing it for my future. And other kids’ future. The adults are making decisions that affect the children’s future and some of the adults won’t even be there to experience the consequences.
Canada needs to recognize environmental rights, because it’s the second largest country in the world and has a really lot of natural resources that it should reserve and preserve.
How did it make you feel to find out they weren’t already protected?
I was just thinking that the people at the really high levels of government just had their priorities completely wrong, and that they’re worried about losing the next election or making their territory bigger instead of actually preserving the rich land for people to live in. This is people’s home. This country is people’s home.
What does it feel like for you to have adults listen to you and take action?
I felt that I wasn’t powerless and that I deserved to be heard. And that although city council meetings don’t usually get attended by children, when they do, they pay attention.
You don’t need to be special to make change. You can just talk to your local government or send letters. I want kids to feel like they have a voice because they do. They’re the ones that will inherit the future. You can never be too young to start making the world that you want.
(Image credit: Shane Yakalashek)