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Initial victory in youth-led climate case

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In Environment
Nov 16th, 2020
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Young Ontarian clients -David LeBlanc photo

The Applicants in the case, 7 young people, are arguing that the Ford government’s climate policy, which weakened Ontario’s climate targets in 2018, violates their Charter-protected rights to life, liberty, and security of the person.

from the National Union of Public and General Employees

The young activists taking the Ford government to court over its climate policy have won an initial victory in their case. With the Ontario court ruling against the government’s attempt to have the case dismissed, this landmark case will proceed to trial.

Young activists fighting for Charter rights

The Applicants in the case, 7 young people, are arguing that the Ford government’s climate policy, which weakened Ontario’s climate targets in 2018, violates their Charter-protected rights to life, liberty, and security of the person.

The Ford government has cut a number of green initiatives in its short tenure, as reported by the National Observer. This includes canceling the cap and trade program, eliminating the electric and hydrogen vehicle incentive program, canceling over 700 green energy projects, proposed cuts to at-risk species protections, and significant cuts to flood management funds.

Ford government tried to stop the case in its tracks

In April, the Ford government had filed a motion to dismiss the case.

The government had tried to argue that the courts aren’t the appropriate place to address climate change, that the climate crisis is too big for Ontario’s actions to matter, and that the young people bringing the case can’t speak for the interest of future generations (Ecojustice).

Court makes a historic ruling

Last week, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that the case would proceed to trial, as reported by the Sudbury Star. The court ruled that the case is of public interest as it applies to all Ontario residents.

Environmental law charity, Ecojustice, is representing the young activists. According to Ecojustice, this ruling is the first time in history a Canadian court has acknowledged “that fundamental rights protected under the Charter can be threatened by climate change and citizens have the ability to challenge a Canadian government’s action on the climate crisis under the highest law in the land.”

One of the applicants, a 13-year old activist involved in the Fridays for Future movement, has said: “I’m hoping to inspire adults so they can do something for the environment, and I’m hoping to inspire politicians to start listening to our experts.”

Victory! Youth-led climate case prevails over government attack

Ecojustice news release November 13 2020

Late yesterday we received word that the seven courageous young people Ecojustice is backing in a landmark climate lawsuit against the Government of Ontario will get their day in court.

For the first time ever, a Canadian court has ruled that fundamental rights protected under the Charter can be threatened by climate change and citizens have the ability to challenge a Canadian government’s action on the climate crisis under the highest law in the land.

The news comes almost a year to the day that our youth clients sued the Doug Ford government for weakening Ontario’s climate targets and violating Ontarians’ Charter rights to life, liberty, and security of the person. In its ruling, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice delivered a rebuke of the Ford government’s attempt to shut down the youth-led lawsuit and affirmed that our clients’ case will be heard in full.

According to the court’s ruling: “This case is of public interest, in that it transcends the interest of all Ontario residents, not just the Applicants’ generation or the ones that follow.”

Mathur et. al. v. Her Majesty in Right of Ontario is the only time a Canadian Court has recognized that the harms caused by climate change can engage our Charter protected rights to life, liberty and security of the person.

The Ford government tried to get our case dismissed on grounds that the courts aren’t the right forum for addressing the climate crisis, that climate impacts will play out so far in the future we can’t understand them now, that the climate crisis is so big and complicated that Ontario’s targets don’t make a difference, and that the young people bringing the case can’t represent the interests of future generations.

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