VANCOUVER, VICTORIA, HAIDA GWAII — A week after the federal government attempted to have a children’s climate case thrown out of court, two of the youth plaintiffs appealed to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) to push Canada to take urgent action on climate change.
“While I was breathing in wildfire smoke last month with Vancouver’s air quality rated worst in the world, Canadian government lawyers were preparing arguments to silence us,” said Zoe Grames-Webb, 14-year-old presenter and one of 15 children and youth suing the federal government in La Rose et al v. Her Majesty the Queen. “We went to the UN hoping they will tell Canada to listen to children and stop violating our rights.”
Haana Edenshaw, a 17-year-old Haida Nation member and one of the 15 youth plaintiffs, explained to the UN CRC, “My rights to my culture and language face great risk due to climate change. It was through access to a healthy environment and elders that I was able to learn my language. It is through fishing and gathering seaweed, clams and spruce roots that I can learn my cultural history.”
Grames-Webb and Edenshaw were supported by well-known environmentalist Severn Cullis-Suzuki and Justice for Girls Director Zoe Craig-Sparrow. Both Cullis-Suzuki and Craig-Sparrow made similar pleas to the United Nations as children.
Cullis-Suzuki, Craig-Sparrow, Edenshaw and Grames-Webb spoke to the UN CRC via Zoom, explaining how Canada’s actions on climate change violate children’s constitutional rights and Canada’s binding human rights obligations under international law.
Their presentations to the CRC were reinforced by the UN Human Rights Council, which last week expressed they are “profoundly concerned that children in many parts of the world remain negatively affected by the adverse impact of climate change.” The Human Rights Council underscored the importance of all countries protecting children through decisive climate action.
“I asked the children’s committee to renew my hope, so that I may dream of a future where the connection between my language, culture and land continues with certainty,” Edenshaw said.
Grames-Webb added, “The Canadian government is trying to silence us in the courts. Yet Canada has failed to meet every GHG emission-reduction target it has ever set, even though the targets were totally inadequate to begin with.”
Craig-Sparrow said, “I’m both inspired and disappointed to be back at the UN with these two girls, voicing the same concerns that I brought as a child eight years ago. Canada is failing us on climate change. Canada is especially failing girls and Indigenous children, who are hit the hardest.” Craig-Sparrow, a human rights scholar and Musqueam Indian Band member, spoke to the CRC about the links between the genocide of Indigenous women and girls and environmental destruction through continued fossil fuel extraction and development.
As the CRC addressed issues facing children like equity and access, Severn Cullis-Suzuki raised the issue of intergenerational injustice, and the fact that climate change will amplify all violations of children’s rights raised at the forum, “Climate Change is the ultimate example of intergenerational injustice. We failed to stop it from happening. But today we still have a chance to mitigate its effects. Climate change will pour gasoline on all the fires that are the violation of children’s rights.”
To protect children’s rights defenders, the UN CRC requires that the exact time and date of the session remain undisclosed.
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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Brendan Glauser, David Suzuki Foundation: 604-356-8829, firstname.lastname@example.org
Recent resolution by the Human Rights Council available at: https://t.co/KN1fZQP23D?amp=1
About the La Rose et al v. Her Majesty the Queen (“La Rose”) youth climate lawsuit:
The La Rose et al case was filed by 15 young people from seven provinces and one territory on October 25, 2019. In the lawsuit, the youth claim the federal government of Canada is contributing to dangerous climate change. The case argues that the youth are already being harmed by climate change and the federal government is violating their rights to life, liberty and security of the person under Section 7 of the Charter and for failing to protect essential public trust resources. The youth plaintiffs also allege that Canada’s conduct violates their right to equality under Section 15 of the Charter, since youth are disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change.
The lawsuit calls on Canada to cease violating the youth’s charter and public trust rights and prepare and implement a plan that reduces Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions in a manner consistent with what the best available science indicates is needed for the federal government to protect young Canadians, do its fair share to stabilize the climate system and avert the catastrophic consequences of climate change.
The youth are represented by the law firms of Arvay Finlay LLP and Tollefson Law Corporation, and are supported by the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation (CELL), David Suzuki Foundation and Our Children’s Trust.