Montreal

Young Quebecers take Ottawa to court in class action over climate change

Lawyers representing young environmentalists are in court today trying to convince a judge to allow a class-action lawsuit against the federal government for its failure to combat climate change.

Lawsuit seeks $100 for every young person spent on fighting climate crisis

In Montreal and around the world, students have been staging weekly protests demanding action on the climate crisis. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Lawyers representing a Quebec environmental group are in court today trying to convince a judge to allow a class-action lawsuit against the federal government for its failure to combat climate change.

The class action would be on behalf of all Quebecers aged 35 or younger, whom lawyers argue are being deprived of a right to a healthy environment and will suffer the effects of global warming more than older generations.

Lawyers for a well-known Montreal law firm that specializes in class actions argued on behalf of the group Environnement Jeunesse that the Canadian government is violating the fundamental rights of an entire generation.

Zy St-Pierre-Bourdelais, a CEGEP student who's part of the group, was in court for the hearing.

"Climate change is going to be a big part of our collective future. We're living a lot of doubts, and we don't know how it's gonna be, so it's really stressful," St-Pierre-Bourdelais told CBC News.

"I'm here for the future generations, and also my children."

The group's lawyers argued inaction on climate change violates young people's charter rights to to life, security and equality.

"The only way to solve this problem is to take responsibility for it as a country," lawyer Bruce Johnston argued before Quebec Superior Court Justice Gary Morrison.

Estimated $340 million

The group is seeking $100 from the Canadian government for each Quebecer in that age bracket — with a catch.

Because doling out an award estimated at $340 million would be complicated and expensive, the action suggests the money be spent on measures to curb climate change.

The goal of the suit is also to obtain a statement that the government has adopted greenhouse gas reduction targets that are dangerous, because they do not go far enough, and that it has failed take necessary steps to limit global warming to within 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Lawyers for the federal government argued that this wasn't a matter for the courts, and that legal action shouldn't be used as a way to override the executive powers of government.
 

With files from Steve Rukavina

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