VANCOUVER | TRADITIONAL, UNCEDED TERRITORIES OF THE xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (MUSQUEAM), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (SQUAMISH) AND səlilwətaɬ (TSLEIL-WAUTUTH) FIRST NATIONS —The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has expressed serious concerns about Canada’s climate policies, calling out the “disproportionately high carbon footprint of [Canada], in particular through investments made in fossil fuels.”
In a release today, the committee addressed climate as a serious children’s human rights concern and called on Canada to “systematically” include children in climate policy decisions, to collect data on the impacts of climate on children and to ensure children’s access to climate justice. The committee also called on Canada to meet its international commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The UN CRC made these statements today in its Concluding Observations, completing its periodic review of Canada.
During the two-year review examining the country’s children’s rights record, teenagers Haana Edenshaw and Zoe Grames-Webb spoke to the UN CRC about how Canada’s support for oil and gas and delayed action violate their rights and cause harm to children through deadly climate change effects. They are also two of 15 children and youth suing the federal government in La Rose et al vs. Her Majesty the Queen for Canada’s active polices that increase emissions and the impacts of extreme climate change.
“I’m still trying to figure out why the Canadian government is fighting us and trying to silence us in court instead of listening to children and youth about how to strengthen Canada’s climate response,” Grames-Webb said. “Our generation will be harmed most by climate change, so having the United Nations hold Canada accountable and support our rights makes a real difference.”
Two activists who made similar pleas to the UN as children — David Suzuki Foundation executive director Severn Cullis-Suzuki and Justice for Girls director of Indigenous rights and environmental justice Zoë Craig-Sparrow — supported Grames-Webb and Edenshaw in their 2020 presentation. All spoke about how Canada’s subsidies for oil and gas, and inaction on climate change violate children’s constitutional rights and Canada’s legally binding international human rights obligations, with an emphasis on the disproportionate impact on Indigenous children.
As part of their lawsuit, Edenshaw and Grames-Webb are asking the Court to declare that Canada’s actions that cause climate change infringe the youth’s charter rights and to require the government to prepare a clear, science-based climate recovery plan that addresses Canada’s share of global greenhouse gas emissions reductions to maintain a stable climate.
The UN CRC’s 18 independent experts monitor Canada’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Canada was questioned under its periodic review, which occurs every five years.
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For more information or a media interview, please contact:
- For relevant paragraphs from the UN CRC concluding observations, see below.
- Full text of the UN CRC concluding observations.
- The La Rose v HMTQ Statement of Claim.
- About the UN CRC.
“Ten years ago, when I was 15 years old, I attended Canada’s review by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. At that time, I called on Canada to take urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and respect the rights of girls, especially Indigenous girls,” Justice for Girls director of Indigenous rights and environmental justice Zoë Craig-Sparrow said. “Since then, little has changed. I came back to support these two girls in their plea for the committee to recognize Canada’s climate inaction as a threat to children’s rights. The rights of children continue to be violated, with Indigenous girls in particular facing genocide, violence, environmental degradation, criminalization and institutionalization. Canada can and must do better.”
“This month is the 30th anniversary of my talk to the UN in 1992. I’m proud that the next generation is stepping forward, but I can’t believe children and youth still have to make desperate appeals to protect their future,” David Suzuki Foundation executive director Severn Cullis-Suzuki said. “It’s time Canada did its part to stabilize the climate for our children. Reducing our climate footprint to scientifically credible levels will include ending subsides for oil and gas, strong caps on emissions and bold action to create renewable energy. We have strong evidence that Canada can get to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2035. Green energy will play a role in getting these children the healthy and safe future they deserve.”
UN Committee on the Rights of the Child Concluding observations on the combined fifth and sixth reports of Canada (9 June 2022)
Impact of climate change on the rights of the child
37. The Committee is concerned about the disproportionately high carbon footprint of the State party, in particular through investments made in fossil fuels, and the negative impact of climate change and air pollution on children’s health. Drawing attention to targets 3.9 and 13.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the State party’s international commitments;
(b) Strengthen awareness-raising among children, with the active participation of schools, on climate change and environmental health, including on relevant air quality and climate legislation, and ensure that children’s views are systematically taken into account in developing policies and programmes addressing climate change;
(c) Collect data on the impact of climate change on children and provide information on this issue in its next report.
Children’s rights and the business sector
16. While welcoming the establishment of the post of the Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise in 2018 and recalling its general comment No. 16 (2013) on State obligations regarding the impact of the business sector on children’s rights and the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, endorsed by the Human Rights Council in 2011, the Committee recommends that the State party establish and implement regulations to ensure that the business sector complies with international and national human rights, labour, environment and other standards, particularly with regard to children’s rights. In particular, it recommends that the State party:
(a) Establish a clear regulatory framework for the industries operating in the State party and abroad to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for activities that negatively affect human rights or endanger children’s rights, particularly risks posed by fossil fuel production;
(b) Develop and implement a national action plan on business and human rights in addition to the Responsible Business Conduct Strategy, through a multisectoral consultation with a focus on children’s rights;
(c) Require companies to undertake assessments, consultations, and full public disclosure of the environmental, health-related and other children’s rights impacts of their business activities and their plans to address such impacts.