Home Environment & Climate News Youth-Led Climate Change Lawsuit in Canada Dismissed by Federal Court

Youth-Led Climate Change Lawsuit in Canada Dismissed by Federal Court

A Federal Court judge granted the government’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought on behalf of 15 young Canadians, who argued the national government was violating their charter rights by not doing enough to prevent climate change and for supporting industries that are causing climate change.

Federal Court Justice Michael Manson rejected a lawsuit initiated by the youths, aged 10 to 19 years old, ruling their attempt to compel the federal government to develop a stringent climate plan, forcing reductions on greenhouse gas emissions, did not present a reasonable cause of action or have a probable prospect of success. As such, the case should be disallowed in order not to tie up the court system’s time and resources, Manson said.

Charter Rights at Issue

In the case, La Rose et al. v. Her Majesty the Queen, initially filed on Oct. 25, 2019, 15 youths from across Canada argued Canada’s failure to protect them against climate change is a violation of the youths’ charter rights.

In particular, the plaintiffs’ claim states that “despite knowing for decades” that greenhouse gas emissions “cause climate change and disproportionately harm children,” the federal government has allowed emissions to increase at a level “incompatible with a stable climate capable of sustaining human life and liberties.”

The federal government asked the federal court to dismiss the case, arguing the Charter did not provide rights to a stable environment. In addition, the government argued that because climate change is a global problem, action in Canada alone can’t solve the problem and, regardless, the issue falls outside of the court’s jurisdiction.

Political, Not Legal Issue

Manson agreed, ruling the wide array of policies the government implements and actions it takes that might contribute to or limit climate change were beyond the authority of the court to determine or manage. In addition, Manson pointed out there is no explicit environmental right in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and he said he was unwilling to assume such a right is implicit in the document, as the plaintiffs had argued.

Although the case would be “based on scientific data and the assessment of that data,” wrote Manson, the questions raised in the case “are so political that the Courts are incapable or unsuited to deal with them.”

H. Sterling Burnett
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

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