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Young Canadians Sue Government Over Climate Change

Canada’s climate-concerned youth are taking their voices from the streets to the courts.

Last week, 15 youths between the ages of 10 and 19, filed a lawsuit against the Canadian government over what they deem insufficient protection from climate change. The David Suzuki Foundation, the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation (CELL), and Our Children’s Trust are supporting the effort.

The plaintiffs claim the feds’ enabling of fossil-fuel development in spite of acknowledged risks from global warming violates their constitutional rights.

Namely, their right to “life, liberty, and security.”

The group is also suing on grounds of inequality, as the government’s misdeeds will most severely affect future generations. Shaky legal ground, to say the least.

“Basically, what we’re arguing is that the courts must hold this generation to account for harms that are being done to the next,” says Chris Tollefson, co-counsel for the plaintiffs and a specialist in environmental law at the University of Victoria in Canada.

While there is no constitutional right to a stable climate, the plaintiffs hope government decisions that worsen the environment represent a violation of other rights. It’s a hell of a test for legal theory.

Ultimately, the group wants to see Justin Trudeau’s government acknowledge the climate science at the heart of the case. Most importantly – and this is where Trudeau has been less than exemplary – they want to see the government draft and enact a comprehensive climate policy. The courts will then be responsible for upholding the policy.

Christian Nathler

Christian Nathler is a contributing writer at Notable Life.