Ford takes aim at youth climate case
TORONTO — The seven young people suing the Government of Ontario for weakening its climate targets said today that they are determined to fend off the province’s attempts to shut down their lawsuit.
The Government of Ontario filed a motion to strike against the youth-led lawsuit yesterday, arguing the case should not proceed to a full hearing.
The lawsuit, filed in November 2019, asserts that Ontario’s weakening of its climate targets will lead to widespread illness and death and violate Ontarians’ Charter-protected rights to life, liberty, and security of the person.
The youth applicants argue that Ontario’s current 2030 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels is inadequate, unconstitutional, and must be struck down.
The Ford government’s weakening of Ontario’s 2030 target will allow significantly more greenhouse gas emissions to be emitted. This will worsen the climate emergency and contribute to dangerous climate change-related impacts such as heatwaves, floods, fires, and poor air quality that will harm the health of people throughout Ontario.
Ontario’s backsliding comes at a time when there is a clear scientific consensus and moral imperative for governments to limit warming to 1.5°C. Meeting this temperature goal, set out in the Paris Agreement, will require global greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced by 45 per cent of 2010 levels by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by no later than 2050.
The seven youth applicants, who range in age from 13 to 25 and hail from communities across Ontario, are represented by lawyers from Ecojustice and Stockwoods LLP in this public interest litigation.
Madison Dyck, 23-year old applicant from Thunder Bay said:
“I grew up sailing on the waters of Lake Superior and spending time in the boreal forest. When I think about how climate change has already impacted the places I love, I feel angry because the people who are making decisions about our futures are likely going to be gone before we even have the chance to have kids or grandkids, and share these spaces with them.
“I’m going to court to make sure the Ford government doesn’t continue to turn a blind eye on the climate crisis. It’s our futures that are at risk. We deserve to have a say in the steps the government is taking to protect our wellbeing.”
Sophia Mathur, 13-year old applicant from Sudbury Ontario said:
“When adults like Doug Ford refuse to listen to the experts telling them to act now, they’re putting the futures of kids like mine, on the line. We’re the ones who are going to be affected the most by the climate emergency. It’s our generation that will face more floods and more droughts. We need the Ford government to do more now.
“When I grow up, I want to be a lawyer. But I know climate action can’t wait until then. That’s why I’m going to court to force the government to take young peoples’ futures seriously.”
Zoe Keary-Matzner, 13-year-old applicant from Toronto said:
“It’s time for Doug Ford and his government to do more to protect us from the climate emergency. I’m really worried about the climate crisis and what it means for all the living beings on this planet. I have family in Australia and I heard scientists say that in those fires, up to a billion animals may have died. Here in Ontario, Toronto and Ottawa have experienced serious flooding and heatwaves.
“I just don’t understand why Premier Ford’s government isn’t listening to the scientists who are telling us that we are in an emergency and need to take more climate action now. It’s frustrating we have to deal with this delay, but I’m not backing down. My future is at stake. My friends’ futures are at stake.”
Fraser Thomson, lawyer with Ecojustice said:
“Rather than arguing the merits of this case, the Ford government has caused delay by bringing this preliminary motion.
“The Ford government cannot argue against the fact that its rollbacks defy the scientific consensus calling for urgent, increased action on the climate emergency. What we do in the next decade will determine whether we can tackle climate change and pass on a livable future or whether we lock in climate chaos for centuries to come. Our clients understand the situation that we’re in and are fighting to ensure their futures are protected.
“We are confident in our clients’ case and will continue to hold the Government of Ontario accountable for its contributions to the climate emergency.”
Nader Hasan, partner with Stockwoods LLP, said:
“We’re in a climate emergency. That’s a fact that’s acknowledged by the federal government and hundreds of municipalities across this country. But merely acknowledging this fact is not good enough. The best science says that we have less than a decade at most to act on climate change before it’s too late.
“This government is aware of the existential threat the climate emergency poses. Because the Ford government won’t act on its own, our clients are asking the courts to order this government to wake up and take action. The government’s motion will delay things, but we’re confident it won’t ultimately deny us our day in court.”
Ecojustice goes to court and uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, innovative public interest lawsuits lead to legal precedents that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.
Nader Hasan and Justin Safayeni, of Stockwoods LLP, are veteran constitutional lawyers with a track record of holding government to account at every level court in Canada, including at the Supreme Court of Canada. In 2017, they led the successful legal challenge to seismic testing in the landmark Indigenous rights case, Clyde River v. Petroleum Geo Services Inc., 2017 SCC 40.