People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

A group of youth attempting to take the federal government to court over its contributions to climate change will have to take their request to a higher court, after a federal court judge struck down the claim.

Cowichan’s Sierra Robinson, 17 is one of the 15 youths involved in the suit.

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim, saying in a written ruling Thursday (Oct. 27) that the claims don’t have a reasonable cause of action or prospect of success.

A lawyer for the youths outlined during a court hearing in September the negative impact of extreme weather events such as floods and rising temperatures on his clients’ physical and mental health as well as their homes, cultural heritage and hopes for the future.

READ MORE: 15 Canadian youths to sue Ottawa for not acting on climate change

The young people across Canada, who range in age from 10 to 19 years old, claimed greenhouse gas emissions in particular have led to changes in the environment through the federal government’s alleged support of fossil fuel exploration and extraction.

They also say subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and the acquisition of the Trans Mountain Pipeline highlight Canada’s failure to fulfill its own commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Manson says that while he understands the claim that climate change has a disproportionate impact on children and youth, he does not accept the allegation that the federal government is violating their charter rights.

Sophia Sidarous, one of the youth plaintiffs, called the decision “a big wake-up call for all Canadian and Indigenous youth. Canada has tried to silence our voice in court and block our calls for climate justice.

“We won’t be dissuaded. I, along with my co-plaintiffs, will continue to fight for the Charter rights of all Canadian and Indigenous youth to hold Canada accountable.”

View this post on Instagram

BREAKING: Today, Justice Michael D. Manson denied the 15 youth plaintiffs in La Rose v. Her Majesty the Queen their day in court. The youth must now go to a higher court before proceeding to trial. Closing the courthouse doors to children is a great injustice. These youth rely on the judiciary to protect their rights, their lives, and their future. With the clock ticking on a climate catastrophe, we must act now. The courts have a responsibility to these young Canadians to protect them and hold those endangering their lives accountable. While today’s ruling shows judicial cowardice and an abandonment of the court’s role, we are nowhere near the end for this historic case. In partnership with their Canadian attorneys, the David Suzuki Foundation, and the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation (CELL), we will continue to fight on behalf of these young plaintiffs. We are determined, we are steadfast, and we are on the right side of justice. And now we will appeal. Read our press release with quotes from several of the young plaintiffs here: https://bit.ly/37IzXIh (link also in bio) #youthvgov #YouthvGovCanada

A post shared by Our Children's Trust (@youthvgov) on

The La Rose case asked the court to declare that Canada is interfering with the youth’s Charter rights to life, liberty, security of the person and equality, and calls on the court to order the government to prepare and implement a plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in a manner consistent with the best available science.

“I am incredibly disheartened by the court’s ruling,” said youth plaintiff Lauren Wright, 16. “As a young Canadian whose rights are being violated, having the court grant the government’s motion to strike is very upsetting, and I feel that my rights to a safe and healthy future are not being taken seriously by those in power.”

ALSO READ: B.C. teen leads effort to fight climate change

In his ruling, Justice Manson said his concern was not that the plaintiffs are asking that the court “consider a network of Canada’s actions and inactions related to climate change, but with the undue breadth and diffuse nature of that network, which puts Canada’s overall policy choices at issue.”

Justice Manson added that, although the case would be “based on scientific data and the assessment of that data,” he believed the questions raised in the case “are so political that the Courts are incapable or unsuited to deal with them.”

David Suzuki Foundation CEO Stephen Cornish said in a statement that the court battle is far from over.

“These brave young plaintiffs aren’t done calling for an adequate, science-based climate recovery plan in Canada. They know we only have a decade to turn things around and that, so far, we’re not on track. These kids are on the right side of history. They deserve their day in court.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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