Youth in court against the federal government for their climate rights

Canada's young climate leaders

These brave, well-spoken young activists range in age from 10 to 19. They hail from seven Canadian provinces and one territory. All are concerned about the world they’re inheriting. (Photo: Robin Loznak via Our Children’s Trust)

In October 2019, our supporters helped 15 young people from all over Canada file a lawsuit against the federal government for violating their charter rights by contributing to and perpetuating dangerous climate change.

The plaintiffs come from seven Canadian provinces and one territory. All are concerned about the world they’re inheriting. Their goal: Force urgent and effective climate action from the Canadian government.

The Government of Canada released its statement of defence on February 13, 2020. It acknowledged that climate change is real, that it has significant negative impact on people in Canada and that addressing climate change is “of central importance to the Canadian government.”

In May, it changed course and announced its intention to have the case thrown out.

The plaintiffs headed to Federal Court on September 30 and October 1. On October 27, Justice Michael D. Manson ruled their case would have to be appealed to a higher court before proceeding to trial. He said the questions raised “are so political that the Courts are incapable or unsuited to deal with them.”

The young plaintiffs are disappointed but determined. And so are we.

Because climate disruption is NOT just a political issue. It’s a matter of survival.

The legal team is already working on an appeal for the Federal Court of Appeal. It aims to file in the spring. “If courts can’t rule in favour of justice, then who can?” Albert, one of the plaintiffs, said.

I’m concerned for my future, the future of the world and the future of Canada if we continue to act like we are now … We young people will never stop fighting for our future.


What’s this case about?

The La Rose et al case argues that the federal government is violating the plaintiffs’ rights to life, liberty and security of the person and that Canada’s conduct violates their rights to equality, since the climate crisis disproportionately affects them.

Impacts they experience include coastal erosion destroying family property, asthma worsened by wildfire smoke, illness transmitted by insects whose ranges have been expanded by global heating and crippling anxiety about the dying planet.

The youth plaintiffs are too young to vote. They have no say in the political decisions made today that will affect all their tomorrows. The courts are their only recourse.

Our supporters have already powered:

  • The October 25, 2019 lawsuit announcement before a Vancouver climate rally, supported by Greta Thunberg.
  • The plaintiffs’ statement of claim.
  • Public and media engagement sessions and communications training for the youth and their families.
  • Ongoing biweekly online meetings with the plaintiffs for legal updates and communications training.
  • Work to build the plaintiffs’ profiles and prepare them for the appeal court process.

Youth climate activists voice their commitment

“Canada has tried to silence our voice in court and block our calls for climate justice. We won’t be dissuaded. I, along with my co-plaintiffs, will continue to fight for the charter rights of all Canadian and Indigenous youth to hold Canada accountable.” ~ Sophia

“As a young Canadian whose rights are being violated, having the court grant the government’s motion to strike is very upsetting, and I feel that my rights to a safe and healthy future are not being taken seriously by those in power.” ~ Lauren

“I’m concerned for my future, the future of the world and the future of Canada if we continue to act like we are now. I need this case to continue for the safety of all the young people in Canada. But this case is not over. We young people will never stop fighting for our future.” ~ Sadie

More than 6,700 people have sent heartfelt messages encouraging these brave young people. Show your solidarity here.

It’s a long road ahead. But with your help, we’ll continue to support these young people. Their future depends on it.

Finding Solutions features stories of caring people like you who make everything here possible. You can read, share, discuss, take action, join, donate. Whatever you choose, you’re helping protect Earth’s life-support systems. Thank you.

Give to support youth climate activists