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We are going to court for the planet

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In Blog
Nov 15th, 2023
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GREENPEACE

Have you ever felt so angry about a decision made by the government that you wished you could argue your case in court?

That’s exactly what seven brave Ontario residents, aged between 12 and 24, decided to do in 2018. They’ve pursued legal action against the Ontario government over its decision to unlawfully repeal the province’s Climate Change Mitigation and Low-Carbon Economy Act.

The case — Mathur et al. v. Ontario, backed by Ecojustice and Stockwoods LLP — was first brought to court in 2019.

Mathur Case Profiles

© Toronto Star. Seven brave Ontarians who are taking the Ford government to court. From left to right: Sophia Mathur, Shelby Gagnon, Beze Gray, Zoë Keary-Matzner, Alex Neufeldt, Shaelyn Wabegijig, Madison Dyck. 

They’re arguing that Ontario’s decision to revise the emissions reduction target violates human rights — specifically those under section 7 (life, liberty and security of the person) and section 15 (equality) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — by inadequately addressing climate change.

Premier Ford’s government tried to dismiss the case, but was denied by the Ontario Superior Court. This was a big deal. For the first time in Canadian history, a court recognized that climate change has the potential to violate Charter rights.

This year, the Ontario Superior Court dismissed the case, but found the case to be “justiciable”, which means that it is an appropriate legal question for a court to decide. This makes it the first Charter-based climate case in Canada to succeed on this point. Now, the applicants are planning to launch an appeal, to hold the government to emissions targets based on the best available science.

“It is a critical time to decide whether we are going to ensure the health and safety of youth and future generations by holding governments and industry accountable in reducing emissions,” explains Priyanka Vittal, Legal Counsel for Greenpeace Canada.

Up until now, Greenpeace Canada has supported this case from the sidelines, but with the appeal in the works, we plan to intervene alongside the Urgenda Foundation. This means we are making a submission that offers information, expertise, or insight on the issues in the case. 

“Our submission will help the judge see and understand that, in light of international law, it can be within the role of the court to decide on the responsibility of the government to curb emissions,” explains Vittal.

The case will be argued in January, and the verdict will be decided in 2024. And while we’re all working hard for a win, even a loss could hold important decisions that allow future cases to move forward.

As a monthly donor, you’ll be on that stand with us in January, helping to hold governments accountable for inadequate climate action. Your generous support allows us to campaign for a greener and safer world for all.

In hope and admiration,

Steph
Supporter Communications Manager,

Greenpeace Canada

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