Ecojustice Case – Climate change Case Status: In Progress

#GenClimateAction: Mathur et. al. v. Her Majesty in Right of Ontario

Alan AndrewsLawyer
Danielle GallantDanielle GallantLawyer
Fraser ThomsonLawyer
Sophia MathurSophia MathurClient
Zoe Keary-MatznerZoe Keary-MatznerClient
Shaelyn WabegijigShaelyn WabegijigClient
Shelby GagnonShelby GagnonClient
Alex NeufeldtAlex NeufeldtClient
Madison DyckMadison DyckClient
Beze GrayBeze GrayClient
Seven young people suing the Government of Ontario for weakening climate targets
Photo by Emily Chan

When the Ford government stepped into office, it unlawfully passed the Cap and Trade Cancellation Act — a move Ecojustice swiftly (and successfully) challenged on the basis that the Ford government ignored public consultation requirements under Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights.

While our case vindicated Ontarians’ right to be consulted on changes to environmental law, it did not reverse the Cap and Trade Cancellation Actwhich rolled back the province’s relatively progressive climate targets, and allowed the government to replace them with a significantly weaker 2030 target.

This weaker target will allow more greenhouse gas emissions to be emitted, further contribute to dangerous climate change-related impacts such as heatwaves, floods, fires, and poor air quality that will harm the health of Ontarians, and violate their Charter rights to life, liberty, and security of the person.

Young people are especially at risk when it comes to climate threats because these risks will increase in the coming years if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced. It’s their lives and lives of everyone who comes after them that will be forced to bear the costs of climate inaction more than previous generations.

That’s why seven young climate leaders, backed by Ecojustice, courageously stepped up to the plate in November 2019, launching a legal fight for a safe and healthy future — starting with a safe climate.

On April 15, 2020, the government filed a motion to strike the case, arguing it should not proceed to a full hearing. The youth applicants countered this motion  in July 2019, arguing that they deserved their day in Court.

This led to a historic win. For the first time in Canadian history, a court recognized that climate change has the potential to violate Charter rights and gave the youth the greenlight to move ahead to a full hearing.

Now, the province is trying to appeal the Ontario Superior Court’s rejection of its motion to strike the youth-led case. If the court grants the province leave to appeal, it will almost certainly delay this urgent litigation – and could jeopardize these young people’s chances of ever getting their day in court.

Why is Ecojustice involved?

At a time when the science says we should be showing greater climate ambition, the Ford government has thrown climate action in this province into reverse.

Ontario’s backpedaling comes at a time when there is a clear scientific consensus and moral imperative for governments to ratchet up their targets to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The science says we must do more to combat the climate emergency, but the Government of Ontario has done the exact opposite at this critical moment. This is unacceptable, as the seven climate leaders at the heart of our latest case assert, unconstitutional.

Our youth clients are part of what we affectionately call Generation Climate Action (#GenClimateAction) — the remarkable young people around the world who have left their classrooms, put their plans on hold, and taken to the courts to speak truth to power about how the climate crisis impacts their future — and Ecojustice is committed to doing all we can to support them.

What would a win mean?

A win would see Ontario’s 2030 climate target struck down and the court to order the Government of Ontario to set a stronger target in line with what the science tells us is necessary to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

We also hope to see the courts recognize that a safe climate and healthy environment are an integral part of our Charter right to life, liberty, and security of the person.

Additional resources:

Learn more about the clients by reading their bios.
Read our case backgrounder.
Read our overview of the notice of application.
Read the Superior Court of Ontario’s final decision on the province’s motion to strike.

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