Posted on July 10, 2020 (updated: July 10, 2020)

Ontario youth in court to fend off province’s attempt to shut down climate lawsuit

Seven young people suing the Government of Ontario for weakening climate targets
Photo by Emily Chan

Court conducts virtual hearing to decide fate of landmark climate case brought by seven young Ontarians

TORONTO – Seven young Ontarians will be in virtual court on July 13 to fight off the Government of Ontario’s attempt to shut down their landmark climate lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed by Sophia Mathur (13), Zoe Keary-Matzner (13), Shaelyn Wabegijig (23), Shelby Gagnon (23), Alex Neufeldt (24), Madison Dyck (24) and Beze Grey (25) in November 2019, alleges that the Government of Ontario’s weakening of its climate targets will lead to widespread illness and death and violates Ontarians’ Charter-protected rights to life, liberty, and security of the person.

In April 2020, the government filed a motion to strike the youth-led case and stop it from proceeding to a full hearing.

The youth applicants assert, among other reasons, that their case should be heard on its merits because the courts have the power to determine whether governments’ inaction on climate change violates Canadians’ rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the province has a legal duty to respond to the climate crisis.

The seven youth applicants, who hail from communities across Ontario, are represented by lawyers from Ecojustice and Stockwoods LLP in this public interest litigation.

Monday’s hearing will begin at 10 a.m. ET and can be viewed via YouTube: https://youtu.be/fD99m50drc8

Sophia Mathur, 13-year-old applicant from Sudbury said:

“We’re the ones who are going to be affected the most by the climate emergency. We are the ones that will have to deal with more floods and more droughts. It’s our futures that are at stake because Doug Ford and his government are refusing to listen to the experts telling them to act now. I want our case to move forward because it’s time for Doug Ford to take my generation’s future seriously and do more to protect us from the climate emergency.”

Alex Neufeldt, 24-year-old applicant from Ottawa said:

“If Doug Ford was serious about protecting the economy for young entrepreneurs like me, he’d wouldn’t have weakened Ontario’s climate targets and he definitely wouldn’t be questioning the role his government plays in preventing the catastrophic impacts of climate change. I want our lawsuit against the Ford government to get its day in court because I believe Ontario should be a leader when it comes to creating good green jobs and making sure that young people like myself have the stability and certainty to plan for our futures.”

Shaelyn Wabegijig, 23-year-old applicant from Peterborough, said:

“When you’re young, everybody thinks you don’t have much to say because you don’t have all the experience that older people have. The climate emergency shows that all generations have a role they can play. As the younger generation, we see the incredible opportunity we have before us to change the way that we live on this planet. I’m fighting, along with my co-applicants, to see that our case gets its day in court because I want to be able to share healthy air, land and water, a safe climate, and as a member of the Caribou Clan, my culture with future generations.”

Nader Hasan, partner with Stockwoods LLP said:

“Climate change is an existential threat.  Ontario does not deny it. But the Government says that Ontario’s climate plan should be immune from judicial scrutiny.  That’s not how things work in a constitutional democracy.  We’re in court on Monday to argue that the courts can and must hold government to account when it comes to fighting climate change.”

Fraser Thomson, Ecojustice lawyer said: 

“The Ford government can’t argue against the scientific consensus on climate change. Instead it is seeking to avoid constitutional scrutiny of its harmful climate policies by attempting to strike this case.

“Our clients are the ones who will bear the impacts of today’s government’s refusal to act on the climate crisis. Their lawsuit is fighting to get the province back on track to address the climate emergency and protect every Ontarians’ Charter rights to life, liberty and security of the person. They deserve the chance to have a court hear their concerns and all the evidence in a full hearing.”

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ABOUT

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.

For media inquiries

Sean O’Shea, communications specialist | Ecojustice

1-800-926-7744 ext. 523, soshea@ecojustice.ca

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