Canadian Teens Sued The Federal Government Over Climate Change

Credit(s): ENvironnement JEUnesse

In November of 2018, Canadian teens sued the Canadian federal government for its inadequacy in the fight against climate change.

That’s right. Sued.

Led by ENvironnement JEUnesse, a Quebec-based organization educating youth about environmental issues, this lawsuit was the first of its kind in Canada. The application was to represent all people in Quebec aged 35 and under.

The argument presented was that the government had failed in its obligation to protect the younger generations, who will be left to face climate-related issues in the future due to a lack of care, currently. There had not been any major federal acts in place to bring down carbon emissions — a worry as the world continues to heat up.

The organization’s three demands were as follows:

  1. Declare the government “by its actions and omissions, is violating the fundamental rights of young Quebecers”
  2. Force the government to “cease and desist” the violations
  3. To pay compensation to the youth

With the last demand, ENvironnement JEUnesse calculated the approximated fine would be $340 million, with every Quebecer 35 and under receiving $100. However, if this term was agreed upon, the organization would call for a change to their third demand, requesting that the money be put towards climate change action.

It was pointed out by members of the organization that similar cases had gone through in other countries. In 2019, the Netherlands government was ordered by the Supreme Court to cut the country’s greenhouse emissions by at least 25%.

Credit(s): Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

Unfortunately, the lawsuit was rejected by the court who cited that:

  1. The request is a matter for legislative and executive branches of government and any court order would infringe on the powers of political bodies.
  2. The judges found the findings general and so imprecise that it would prevent courts from finding a compelling case for the federal government.

ENvironnement JEUnesse’s executive director, Catherine Gauthier responded “Climate change threatens our lives and our security, and I am concerned that its impacts are becoming more and more tangible and threatening. I know I can count on the young people we represent to continue to fight for our rights”.

Although the lawsuit was rejected, the ENvironnement JEUnesse’s hard work and determination will encourage more Canadians to speak out on the injustices they face relating to the climate crisis. For the government to truly hear the people, we must continue to spread awareness — continue reading, continue talking, and continue educating.

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