A group of five youth and young adults led by Montreal-based ENvironnement JEUnesse (ENJEU) has applied to the Superior Court of Québec for leave to launch a class action lawsuit against the Canadian government, challenging the country’s limited response to climate change on behalf of all Quebeckers aged 35 and under.
The announcement is already picking up international coverage, from Climate Liability News in the United States to Climate Home News in the UK. The youth are represented pro bono by the firm Trudel Johnston & Lespérance. ENJEU is inviting anyone who thinks they might qualify as part of the class to get in touch, and the form allows youth from any province or territory to sign on.
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“ENvironnement JEUnesse alleges that the Canadian government is infringing on a generation’s fundamental rights because its greenhouse gas reduction target is not ambitious enough to avoid dangerous climate change, and because it does not even have a plan that would allow it to reach this already inadequate target,” the organization states.
“If the government continues in this direction, people under 35 will suffer the severe consequences of climate change, depriving them of their right to life and security of the person, to their right to equality, and to their right to an environment in which biodiversity is preserved.”
ENJEU notes that plaintiffs won a similar case in The Netherlands (although the government has since appealed the decision to the country’s supreme court), and similar legal actions are under way in the United States, Belgium, Norway, Ireland, New Zealand, Switzerland, Colombia, and the United Kingdom. To gain certification as a class action, “ENvironnement JEUnesse must first demonstrate to the Superior Court of Québec that it has an arguable case,” the release notes, meaning that “at first glance, the alleged facts, if they are proven in a trial on merits, appear to justify the conclusions sought.”
In its release, ENJEU argues that young people “will suffer the most from the impacts of climate change,” including longer and intense heat waves, extreme weather, floods, and waves of climate refugees. “Young people will have to pay for adaptation to the consequences. Today, young people are speaking out and asking the court to demand that the government respect their rights. It must act now to reduce the burden that their generation will have to bear.”
“Despite the abundance of scientific studies pointing in the same direction, the Canadian government is failing in its duty to take action against climate change,” said ENJEU Executive Director Catherine Gauthier, one of the five plaintiffs. “Instead of accelerating a green transition, Canada is subsidizing oil companies and purchasing a pipeline in our name. We demand that our rights and those of future generations be protected and respected.”
“The climate crisis is not science fiction,” added plaintiff and environmental activist Alix Ruhlmann. “It’s a phenomenon with disastrous consequences and it affects everyone, here and now. Not only are the Canadian goals far below the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Canada doesn’t even have an effective plan to reduce GHG emissions.”
Plaintiff Zy St-Pierre-Bourdelais asks, “can I have a safe, positive future without climate threats? The Canadian government is not making the necessary decisions in order to protect future generations’ quality of life and opportunities.”