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Young people in Quebec are suing Canada over climate change

It's the first lawsuit of its kind in Canada.

by Sara Barrière-Brunet
Nov 27 2018, 10:47pm

A Quebec-based environmental group is launching legal action against the Canadian government, accusing it of neglecting its responsibilities to protect young people from the effects of climate change.

This week, the ENvironment JEUnesse asked the Superior Court of Quebec for permission to launch a class action lawsuit on behalf of all Quebecers aged 35 and under — some 3.5-million people.

It’s the first lawsuit of its kind in Canada.

By ratifying the Paris Agreement in 2016, Canada committed to reducing its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, and by 30 percent by 2030. Last March, however, a report by the Commissioner of the Environment showed that the government was going to miss the previous Conservative government's GHG reduction targets.

And even if the targets are met, the group argues that they are far too low to avoid an environmental disaster.

"If the government continues on this path, the 0-35 age group will suffer the serious consequences of climate change, depriving them of their right to a healthy environment and the protection of biodiversity, their right to life and security, and of their right to equality,” ENvironnement JEUnesse states in a press release.

Group spokeswoman Catherine Gauthier argues that, despite numerous scientific reports of the risks of not acting, the Canadian government is failing.

"Rather than speeding up an ecological transition, Canada subsidizes oil companies and buys a pipeline on our behalf," said Gauthier, who is also the executive director of ENvironnement JEUnesse.

In its request, the group demands that the rights of young people, as well as those of future generations, be protected and respected. It calls on Canada to take immediate action to prevent dangerous global warming beyond 1.5 °C.

The law firm Trudel Johnston & Lespérance, representing the request, sees this as grounds for prosecution. "The behavior of the Canadian government undermines many rights protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms," said Bruce Johnston, lawyer and partner.

The approach builds on similar initiatives in other countries, such as the United States, Belgium, Norway, Ireland, New Zealand, Switzerland, Colombia and the United Kingdom. A lawsuit in the Netherlands has yielded tangible results. The Dutch government has been forced by a judgment of the Court of Appeal to work on a concrete plan to achieve its environmental targets.

This article appeared first on VICE Quebec.

Cover image: Lawyers and youth plaintiffs line up behind a banner after a hearing between lawyers for the Trump Administration and the Climate Kids in Federal Court in Eugene, Ore. The lawsuit against the U.S. government for being slow to address climate change is on hold again, after a federal appeals court Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, granted the Trump administration's motion for a temporary stay. (Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via AP, File)