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November 7, 2023
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 — Twelve Indigenous, environmental, health, and civil society groups have been granted intervenor status in the appeal of a historic youth-led Charter case on climate change.
Sophia, Zoe, Shaelyn, Alex, Shelby, Madi, and Beze, backed by lawyers from Ecojustice and Stockwoods LLP, are leading a legal challenge of the Ontario government’s decision in 2018 to significantly weaken the province’s 2030 climate target, enabling dangerous levels of greenhouse gas emissions over the next decade. The seven young people from across Ontario are appealing the dismissal of their case, Mathur et al., to the Court of Appeal for Ontario.
The appeal is scheduled to be heard on January 15 and 16, 2024.
Intervening at the appeal hearing in support of the seven youth are:
Danielle Gallant, Ecojustice lawyer, said:
“Youth climate litigation is crucial at a time when people across Canada, and around the world, are increasingly witnessing the impacts of the climate crisis.
“These seven young people are committed to continuing fighting their case and holding the Ontario government to account for rolling back on climate ambition.
“We are delighted that a broad range of Indigenous, environmental, health, and civil society groups have joined in support of this case. Their distinct perspectives on the issues will be essential as we ask the Court of Appeal to address this existential threat to humanity.”
Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh, Grand Chief of Grand Council Treaty #3, said:
“Respecting the earth and ensuring a healthy natural environment for our future generations is a core legal principle within our Anishinaabe Inaakonigewin (law). This case provides an opportunity for the Canadian justice system to create the space for our inherent Anishinaabe law and ultimately harmonize systems of governance.”
Priyanka Vittal, Legal Counsel, Greenpeace Canada, and Dennis van Berkel, Legal Counsel, Urgenda Foundation, said:
“Greenpeace Canada and Urgenda are looking forward to lending their knowledge and expertise to the case to show the Court that it can be within the role of the judiciary to decide on the responsibility of the government to curb emissions. The judicial system plays an important role in holding governments and institutions accountable in this critical time.”
Brianne Whyte is a mother, teacher, and organizer with For Our Kids Toronto, a group of committed parents working together for climate justice, part of the For Our Kids network, said:
“As parents in the For Our Kids network, we continue to stand with the seven youth plaintiffs and with children everywhere in fighting for a safe climate. We are grateful for the unwavering determination of the 7 plaintiffs, and we will make sure that they don’t have to face this crisis alone. Parents everywhere desperately want a livable future for their children, and this lawsuit is an important step in that direction.”
Anna Johnston, Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law, said:
“This summer, the hottest on record and full of the most devastating wildfires ever seen in Canada, has made it clear that we can’t afford to backslide on climate action. We’re intervening in this important case to argue that governments like Ontario have a legal obligation to rein in their carbon pollution in line with what science says must be done to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.”
Beatrice Olivastri, CEO, Friends of the Earth Canada, said:
“Friends of the Earth is privileged to intervene in this precedent-setting climate litigation brought by young Canadians. Canada’s Supreme Court consistently emphasizes the fundamental importance of environmental protection in Canadian society and draws on the principles of ecological sustainability, intergenerational equity, precaution, and environmental justice in interpreting Charter rights. These are principles the young applicants depend on and that the Government of Ontario seems to be ignoring.”
Maryo Wahba, Climate Justice Policy Analyst, Citizens for Public Justice, said:
“This bold action by Ontario’s youth highlights the urgent need to align Canada’s legal frameworks with climate science consensus. The weakening of Ontario’s climate targets not only undercuts the province’s obligation to curb greenhouse gas emissions, but also jeopardizes the rights of young Ontarians and future generations to a habitable planet. This case marks a critical moment in our collective climate action, echoing CPJ’s longstanding commitment to justice-driven climate litigations. We stand united with these young climate leaders and the extensive coalition supporting them, emphasizing the intertwined nature of climate justice, human, and constitutional rights.”