15 young Canadians suing the government over climate change

Published 2019-10-25 10:15

Government says it already has a climate action plan in place

“See you in court!”

That’s basically the message a group of young Canadians are hoping to send to the federal government today, as they launch a lawsuit over climate change. 

This is “not a publicity stunt,” said Sierra Robinson, a 17-year-old homeschooled farmer from the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island.

“We’re suing the federal government.”

While the government says it supports young people who are fighting for climate action, a spokesperson was quick to point out it already has a plan in place to fight climate change.

Sierra Robinson is one of 15 Canadians between the ages of 10 and 19 who are suing the Canadian government over climate change. (Robin Loznak)

Sierra is one of 15 young people from eight provinces and one territory who filed a lawsuit in federal court today, leading up to a climate strike in Vancouver.

They did it with the help of an organization based in the U.S. called Our Children’s Trust, which has helped kids file similar lawsuits across the world.

Tweet from Our Children's Trust says Meet the La Rose v. Her Majesty the Queen plaintiffs. These 15 plaintiffs are filing their lawsuit against the federal Canadian government today.

At the heart of the lawsuit is the idea that the government’s role in the climate crisis violates their fundamental rights.

The youth, ages 10 to 19, will attempt to argue in court that they’ve suffered “specific, individualized injuries” as a result of climate change, said Chris Tollefson, one of the lawyers representing the group.

They will also argue that those injuries have interfered with certain rights outlined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the right to life, liberty and security of the person.

In broad strokes, the charter says the government is not allowed to put Canadian lives at risk or negatively impact their mental or physical health.

Sierra Robinson works in a greenhouse.

Sierra, who is homeschooled, also works as a farmer in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. (Food:Sierra/Earth Guardians/Vimeo)

If they win, the youth won’t be walking away with a big chunk of change, Sierra said.

That’s not the point.

The goal is to force the government to implement a “science-based recovery plan,” Sierra said, based on advice from Canada’s top scientists.

protesters march in the street holding cut outs of hearts

Thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Vancouver on Friday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The Canadian government is already "ambitiously tackling climate action," said Environment and Climate Change Canada spokesperson Gabrielle Lamontagne.

In an email, she said a plan called the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change includes more than 50 "concrete actions to fight climate change."

That includes phasing out coal, using a carbon tax to put a price on pollution and investing in clean energy and public transit.

Even so, Lamontagne said, the federal government will continue to support young Canadians who "are asking their representatives to do more."

Greta Thunberg stands behind a woman speaking at a microphone

Greta Thunberg attends a student-led climate change march and rally in Vancouver on Friday. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The government's actions thus far aren't good enough for Sierra.

“Youth and young people across Canada are panicking,” she said, when asked why launching a lawsuit was necessary.

The government has been “talking for a long, long time about how climate change is a problem,” Sierra said, “yet they’re continuing to contribute to that problem instead of taking action on it.”

“With this lawsuit, we’re asking them to take that action,” she said.

With files from CBC News

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