TORONTO – Less than three months after appearing in a virtual court hearing themselves, the seven youth at the helm of an Ontario-based climate case have a message for other young climate activists taking action on the streets and in the courts.
“We are with you,” Sophia Mathur, 13, said. “I believe this is the generation that will finally force our governments to tackle the climate crisis..”
Mathur is one of the seven young people suing the Doug Ford government for violating Ontarians’ Charter-protected rights to life, liberty and security of the person when it struck down and weakened the province’s climate targets in 2018. The Ontario youth, who call themselves #GenClimateAction, are currently waiting for the court to decide if their case (Mathur et. al. v. Her Majesty in Right of Ontario) will proceed to a full hearing.
Today, Mathur and her co-applicants voiced their support for 15 young people who are headed to court tomorrow in a separate climate lawsuit against the federal government, La Rose et. al. v. Her Majesty the Queen.
“When we had our court date this summer, I felt nervous and excited. I know the La Rose plaintiffs are probably feeling the same way because they know how much is at stake. Like us, they are fighting for our generation and every generation after that,” Mathur said. “I want to say to them: It is your right to protect your future. Keep pushing forward. You’ve got this.”
Shaelyn Wabegijig, who is part of the lawsuit with Mathur, also offered a statement in solidarity with other youth climate activists. Wabegijig, 24, grew up in Rama First Nation and her family are Algonquin from Timiskaming First Nation and of European Descent.
“When it comes to climate change, the science, Indigenous knowledge, and our own lived experiences as young people are all telling us the same thing: There is no time to waste. Governments at all levels have contributed to our current situation. Now, they need to do what it takes to protect people and the planet.,” Wabegijig said. “I am so inspired when I see my peers holding governments to account through dialogue, strikes, and lawsuits. We know what must happen and we are prepared to fight for our futures.”
Alex Neufeldt, 25, another applicant in Mathur et. al. v. Her Majesty in Right of Ontario, added:
“Together, young people like me are sending a clear message: if we want to save the climate, ‘normal’ isn’t good enough. Right now, governments are writing plans and policies for COVID-19-recovery. These strategies must also pave the way to a safe climate.
“In the words of Sonya Renee Taylor, ‘we will not go back to normal.’ Today’s youth know we must do better – for the climate, for the plants and animals, and for each other.”
In Mathur et. al. v. Her Majesty in Right of Ontario, seven young people, backed by Ecojustice, are suing the Government of Ontario for weakening its climate targets because it will lead to catastrophic climate change and widespread illness and death, violating Ontarians’ Charter-protected rights to life, liberty, and security of the person. Lawyers from Ecojustice and Stockwoods LLP are representing the youth applicants.
In La Rose et. al. v. Her Majesty the Queen, 15 young people from seven provinces and one territory claim the federal government of Canada is contributing to dangerous climate change. The case argues that the youth are already being harmed by climate change and the federal government is violating their rights under Section 7 and Section 15 of the Charter and under the public trust doctrine. They are represented by the law firms of Arvay Finlay LLP and Tollefson Law Corporation, and are supported by the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation (CELL), David Suzuki Foundation and Our Children’s Trust.
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 before courts in Ontario and 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.