Posted on June 28, 2022 (updated: June 28, 2022)

Environmental, Indigenous and parent groups to intervene in landmark climate lawsuit led by Ontario youth

Photo by Emily Chan

Toronto, Ont./ Traditional territories of several First Nations including the Williams Treaties First Nations, Huron-Wendat, the Anishnaabeg, Haudenosaunee, Chippewas, and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation – Indigenous Climate Action, the David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights, the Assembly of First Nations, Friends of the Earth, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, and For Our Kids have been granted intervenor status in a historic youth-led challenge against the Ontario government on climate change.

The court recognizes that these groups bring a broad and varied perspective of how the climate crisis is impacting people across Ontario, including Indigenous peoples. All groups granted intervenor status will be presenting their views before the court.

This September, seven young Ontarians, backed by Ecojustice, will be taking their provincial government to court in a pivotal hearing in the fight against the climate emergency in Canada.

In 2018, the Ontario government gutted relatively strong climate targets with a single, significantly weaker 2030 target that would allow dangerous levels of greenhouse gas pollution to continue over the next decade.

Seven Ontario youth launched a legal challenge against the government’s watered-down approach to the climate emergency in November 2019, arguing that when the provincial government scrapped its climate law, it violated their Charter rights to life, liberty and security of the person.

The Ontario Superior Court dismissed an attempt by the provincial government to stop this case, ruling that citizens have the ability to challenge a Canadian government’s inaction on the climate crisis under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This was the first time that a Canadian court ruled that fundamental rights protected under the Charter can be threatened by climate change.

This case will now proceed to a full hearing scheduled for September 12-14.

Fraser Thomson, Ecojustice lawyer, said:
“We are honoured that environmental and Indigenous groups have stepped forward will now appear as intervenors in court.

“This is already a historic case because it is the first climate Charter case to proceed to a hearing in a Canadian court.

“Like in many places around the world, it is young people who are taking up the legal fight for a safer climate, and thanks to the intervenors they won’t be going alone.”

Sophia Mathur, Sudbury, Ont. said:
“Young people around the world are stepping forward and holding their governments to account for failing to take sufficient action on the climate emergency.

“I am delighted that these groups are now joining our case. The more voices that can present the impact the climate crisis is having on communities across the province, the better our chances are that we can secure a victory and help build a safer, more sustainable future.”

Natalie Caine, mother and organizer with For Our Kids said:
“The parents of the For Our Kids network will not let our kids face the climate crisis alone. Our intervention in this case is one of the important ways parents are getting involved and supporting young people in this crucial moment in history. We must curb climate change and create a safer future for all our kids.”

Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, Friends of the Earth, said:
“Friends of the Earth looks forward to assisting the court by drawing on the rich experience of courts around the world in similar cases regarding government responsibility for addressing the harms of climate change on current and future generations. At the same time, Friends of the Earth will encourage the court to recognize the unwritten constitutional principle of ecological sustainability, which obligates Canadian governments to make science-based, good faith efforts to preserve Canadian ecosystems, including the climate, to the extent necessary to protect human rights and avoid existential threats to Canadian society.”

Rebecca Sinclair, Director of Education and Programming, Indigenous Climate Action, said: 
“There are clear gaps in the climate policies set forth by the Ontario government that very much reflect their blindspots as a colonial government. Since time immemorial Indigenous peoples have understood the importance of ensuring good governance, care, and respect for the territories we reside in and yet we are structurally excluded from decision making tables about future climate plans. This is not only a violation of our inherent rights, but also a major loss for the health and security of everyone who wants a liveable planet for the future.

“Indigenous sovereignty cannot be ignored and we are so proud of our youth who are taking a legal stand to ensure Indigenous values and expertise are included in future climate policies and taking a stand for their future.

“The future generations will be bearing the brunt of these policies. As Indigenous peoples we know the importance of honouring our ancestors and planning for the future. This is the wisdom that is clearly not understood by the Ontario government.”

Dr. Samantha Green, Family Physician and Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment board member said:
“Climate change is the biggest health threat of this century. As physicians, we are already seeing the health impacts of climate change on patients, with an increase in heat-related illness, exacerbations of lung and heart disease from heat and wildfire smoke, injury and mental health impacts from floods and storms, an increase in many infectious diseases, and an increase in food insecurity as a result of drought.

“And we know that, as the world gets warmer, those impacts will intensify. We are grateful for the opportunity to support the youth applicants in this case, to protect the health of Ontarians and people across the country and around the world.”

About:

Ecojustice uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, public interest lawsuits and advocacy lead to precedent-setting court decisions and law and policy 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.

For Our Kids is a national network of parent-led grassroots groups involved in climate action and fighting for a better world for our kids and grandkids.

Friends of the Earth Canada (www.foecanada.org) is the Canadian member of Friends of the Earth International, the world’s largest grassroots environmental network campaigning on today’s most urgent environmental and social issues

Indigenous Climate Action (ICA) is an Indigenous-led climate justice organization guided by a diverse group of Indigenous knowledge keepers, water protectors and land defenders from communities and regions across the country. We believe that Indigenous Peoples’ rights and knowledge systems are critical to developing solutions to the climate crisis and we know it is essential to have Indigenous leadership to bring us along a pathway for climate justice.

The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) is a physician-directed non-profit organization working to secure human health by protecting the planet. Since its founding in 1993, CAPE’s work has achieved substantial policy victories in collaboration with many partners in the environmental and health movements. From coast to coast to coast, the organization operates throughout the country with regional committees active in most provinces and all territories.

For media inquiries

Sean O’Shea, communications strategist | Ecojustice
416-368-7533 ext. 523, soshea@ecojustice.ca

Natalie Caine, For Our Kids national support team
Email: natalie@forourkids.ca

Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, Friends of the Earth Canada
Beatrice@foecanada.org,  613-724-8690

Rebecca Sinclair, Director of Education and Programming, Indigenous Climate Action
204-802-1004, rebecca@indigenousclimateaction.com

Raissa Marks, Interim Executive Director, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment
raissa@cape.ca, 506-588-2980

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