The plaintiffs in La Rose et. al. v. Her Majesty the Queen are seeking to hold Canada accountable for contributing to dangerous climate change and discriminating against youth
VANCOUVER — On Friday, February 7, 2020, the federal government of Canada (“Canada”) filed its Statement of Defence in the youth-led climate change lawsuit, La Rose et. al. v. Her Majesty the Queen (“La Rose”). In this defence, Canada acknowledges that climate change is real, that it has significant negative impact on Canadians, and that addressing climate change is “of central importance to the Canadian government.” However, Canada claims that the 15 young Canadians should not be given public interest standing and that the courts are not the appropriate branch of government to provide the youth plaintiffs with their requested relief.
In its Statement of Defence, Canada’s admits:
Climate change is real, measurable, and documented. It is not a distant problem, but one that is happening now and that is having very real consequences on people’s lives. Its impacts will get more significant over time… Notwithstanding its global nature, climate change is having a particularly significant impact in Canada… Changes in climate are increasingly affecting Canada’s natural environment, economic sectors and the health of Canadians, and climate change is increasingly exacerbating the impacts of other stressors on natural systems in Canada and on the well-being of Canadians… While climate change is a global phenomenon, it has significant and particular impacts on Canada and Canadians.
Canada also does not dispute that the plaintiffs have suffered harm as a result of climate change. However, Canada intends to defend the case by claiming that the courts cannot review the government’s decisions about climate change:
Addressing climate change is the shared responsibility of a multitude of different actors… Only the executive and legislative branches of government may make policy, pass laws and authorize the allocation of public funds.
Although Canada has tabled a climate plan, the federal government has not yet fully implemented it – including passing the policies and laws the scientific evidence suggests are required to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to safe levels; nor has it ceased pursuing counterproductive policies that in fact increase these emissions (i.e., consistent policy action in line with the current climate emergency).
The La Rose case was filed by 15 young Canadians from across the country on October 25, 2019. In the lawsuit, the youth claim that the federal government of Canada is contributing to dangerous climate change. The case also 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 youth, from seven Canadian provinces and the Northwest Territories, 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.
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 GHG 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.
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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Chris Tollefson, co-counsel for plaintiffs, Tollefson Law Corp, 250-888-6074, firstname.lastname@example.org
Counsel for Plaintiffs are Joseph J. Arvay, Q.C. and Catherine Boies Parker, Q.C. of Vancouver, BC, and Chris Tollefson and Anthony Ho of Victoria, BC.
The David Suzuki Foundation (davidsuzuki.org) is a leading Canadian environmental non-profit organization, collaborating with all people in Canada, including government and business, to conserve the environment and find solutions that will create a sustainable Canada through evidence-based research, public engagement and policy work. The Foundation operates in English and French, with offices in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.
Our Children’s Trust (ourchildrenstrust.org) is a non-profit public interest law firm that provides strategic, campaign-based legal services to youth from diverse backgrounds to secure their legal rights to a safe climate. We work to protect the Earth’s climate system for present and future generations by representing young people in global legal efforts to secure their binding and enforceable legal rights to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate, based on the best available science. We support our youth clients and amplify their voices before the third branch of government in a highly strategic legal campaign that includes targeted media, education, and public engagement work to support the youths’ legal actions. Our legal work – guided by constitutional, public trust, human rights laws and the laws of nature – aims to ensure systemic and science-based climate recovery planning and remedies at federal, state, and global levels.
CELL (pacificcell.ca) is a non-profit society incorporated under the laws of British Columbia, and a federally registered charity. Its mission is to train and inspire Canada’s next generation of public interest environmental litigators by providing junior lawyers and law students the opportunity to gain hands-on litigation experience working as part of a team on carefully selected and closely supervised public interest environmental cases.