Seven young people, backed by Ecojustice, are suing the Government of Ontario for weakening its climate targets because it will lead to widespread illness and death, violating Ontarians’ Charter-protected rights to life, liberty, and security of the person.
As young people, the applicants say they and people like them will bear the costs of climate inaction more than previous generations.
The Ford government passed the Cap and Trade Cancellation Act in 2018. The Act repealed what were considered to be relatively strong greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2020, 2030, and 2050. The government then replaced these targets with a single, significantly weaker 2030 target.
By weakening the province’s targets, the Government of Ontario will allow significantly more greenhouse gas emissions to be emitted, further fueling the climate emergency and contributing 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 halve by 2030 and reach net-zero emissions by no later than 2050.
The applicants, who hail from communities across Ontario and range in age from 15 to 27, are represented by lawyers from Ecojustice and Stockwoods LLP Barristers in this public interest litigation. Read more about this case here.
Home to me is: “The forest behind my house in Sudbury.”
Sophia Mathur was the first student in Canada to start a school strike for climate as part of the Friday’s For Future movement, inspired by the work of Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg. Sophia has become well known for her climate activism, both in her hometown of Sudbury and around the world. Last year she attended COP26 in Glasgow.
Why Sophia is taking Ontario to court for weakening its climate targets:
“The climate crisis is going to impact everyone, both now and into the future. It is important for me to be part of this case because we need to stand up for the generations to come and make sure they have a safe and liveable planet.”
Home to me is: “Downtown Toronto, with my dog Rosie.”
Zoe Keary-Matzner is a school student from Toronto who has been worried about the impact of climate change for as long as she can remember. She heard from friends and family in places like Australia and Texas about the devastating impacts that climate change had brought on their lives and was determined to make a change in her home province.
Why Zoe is taking Ontario to court for weakening its climate targets:
“The lack of understanding about what climate change will mean for my generation reaches into the halls of Parliament and into the media and perpetuates the challenges we face. This case is a chance to change the narrative.”
Home to me is: “Peterborough. With the people I love.”
Shaelyn Wabegijig grew up in Rama First Nation, and her people are Algonquin from Timiskaming First Nation. She is Caribou Clan and resides in Nogojiwanong (Peterborough). Shaelyn has worked in Indigenous-led conservation and has now started a master’s degree in Indigenous governance at the University of Victoria.
Why Shaelyn is taking Ontario to court for weakening its climate targets:
“As an Indigenous person, not only do I have the right to address the impact of climate change in court, I have a responsibility to protect the sacred land and water that nourishes us and should nourish future generations.”
Home to me is: “Home is Thunder Bay and up north. It is the land my family has walked and lived on for centuries, the land I walk on now. It is the sound of the animals the trees and water. Home is community and the expression of people that make it humble, kind and humorous.”
Shelby Gagnon is from Aroland First Nation and is an artist and community activist working on Indigenous food sovereignty in northern Ontarian communities. Shelby is concerned about the impact that climate change is having on traditional food sources in her community and its disruption of Indigenous ways of life.
Why Shelby is taking Ontario to court for weakening its climate targets:
“I feel that it’s my responsibility to provide as much energy and power in the fight against climate change. It’s important that we come together as family, friends, and community to fight for change and the good in the world.”
Home to me is: “Ottawa, Ont. – in particular, on my bed with a good book.”
Alex Neufeldt is a young entrepreneur with a growing dress rental business. She is concerned about the impact that climate change, and extreme weather events, like the storm that ripped through her hometown of Ottawa earlier this year, will have on young people who are trying to start businesses and build futures.
Why Alex is taking Ontario to court for weakening its climate targets:
“Scientists have confirmed that extreme weather events, like the type of storm that struck Ottawa earlier this year, are caused and worsened by climate change and these types of disasters will become even more frequent if we do not take sufficient climate action now.”
Home to me is: “The waters of Lake Superior.”
Madison Dyck is a climate activist from Thunder Bay who loves spending her time on the waters of Lake Superior. As an avid sailor, she has seen firsthand the impact of climate change on northern Ontario, both on the water and on the land. Rising temperatures are changing ice cover, impacting animals and disrupting food sources in her area.
Why Madison is taking Ontario to court for weakening its climate targets:
“I’ve witnessed erratic weather in northern Ontario, from heat waves to torrential rain. I’ve seen firsthand the impact that this has had on local food – the dramatic lack of blueberries last summer was a result of the intense heat and the lack of rain.”
Home to me is: “Home is my territories which is all around the Great Lakes (Treaty 29) and being with the people I care about.”
Beze Gray is a land and water defender from Aamjiwnaang First Nation near Sarnia. Their home is in the shadow of Chemical Valley, one of the most polluted areas in Canada with high concentrations of fossil fuels refineries and petrochemical facilities that have had severe health impacts on members of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation.
Why Beze is taking Ontario to court for weakening its climate targets:
“When I was younger, I lived in fear of the impact of fossil fuels on our land and water. But I’ve learnt from traditional teachings and learnings not to live in fear but work to change the world.”