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Marking East Gwillimbury with Blue Dot

East Gwillimbury Express,
Simon Martin,
March 11 2016

When Mount Albert resident Melissa Cusack Striepe was receiving the Ernie Crossland Young Conservationist award at the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Awards last fall, you would think she would have been revelling in her accomplishment.

But for Cusack Striepe, the event was just another chance to advocate for the environment next to some of the movers and the shakers in the region.

When she ran into East Gwillimbury Mayor Virginia Hackson, Cusack Striepe mentioned the David Suzuki Foundation Blue Dot Movement on which she has been working and suggested the town get involved.

“One hundred and ten nations in the world have a right to a healthy environment. Canada is not one of those countries,” she said. “We should have a right to clean air and a right to clean water.”

When Cusack Striepe mentioned the initiative to Hackson, she invited her to come before council to present the program, which she did last month. The Blue Dot campaign is an initiative of the David Suzuki Foundation in which municipalities lead the way by asking governments to legislate a right to breathe clean air, drink clean water and eat safe food.

Council will put forth a motion in the coming weeks in regards to the campaign. For Hackson it’s important to acknowledge the all-encompassing issue of a healthy environment on paper.

“I’m anxious to see what we are going to do as far public policy,” she said. “It takes political courage to say this is what we believe.”

As for Cusack Striepe, she found the whole process of going to council enlightening.

“It really was amazing. I have never really been to a council meeting, so it was kind of cool to see what happened.”

A first-year engineering student at McMaster University, Cusack Striepe made the trip to council chambers to make a presentation during her reading week.

“She’s a wonderful example of a young person making a difference,” Hackson said.

Cusack Striepe won the Neighbourhood Network 2015 Give Back Award, on top of the Ernie Crossland award.

Her awe of nature was fostered at a young age overseas in her father’s native Germany. There, as a little girl, she went to forest kindergarten, where she spent all her time in ‘class’ outside learning about nature.

During her time at Newmarket High School, she was on the Ontario Nature Youth Council and advocating to reduce the use of neonicotinoids, which are insecticides linked to declining bee populations.

Simon Martin is a Reporter with the East Gwillimbury Express. He can be reached at smartin@yrmg.com . Follow him on Twitter and the East Gwillimbury Express on Facebook

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