Sierra Robinson, shown in this recent handout image, 18, is one of 15 young Canadians who asked a Federal Court judge to compel Canada to come up with a climate-change recovery plan. The judge rejected their claims and the case will not proceed to trial but lawyers for the youths say they'll appeal the ruling. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Lena Fountain *MANDATORY CREDIT*

Judge rejects youths’ lawsuit that asks Canada to develop climate recovery plan

Judge rejects youths’ lawsuit that asks Canada to develop climate recovery plan

VANCOUVER — A Federal Court judge has rejected claims by 15 young people asking that Ottawa be compelled to develop a climate recovery plan based on science, but their lawyers say the ruling will be appealed to the country’s highest court if necessary.

Justice Michael Manson said in a written decision released Tuesday that the claims don’t have a reasonable cause of action or prospect of success so the case cannot proceed to trial.

Manson said that while he understands children and youth are disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change, the issue involves a broad network of provincial and federal policies related to greenhouse gas emissions, for example.

“The diffuse nature of the claim that targets all conduct leading to GHG emissions cannot be characterized in a way other than to suggest the plaintiffs are seeking judicial involvement in Canada’s overall policy response to climate change,” he said

Manson said the courts should not be involved in what is essentially a complex political matter.

Joe Arvay, a lawyer for the youth, said he disagreed.

“This is the opinion of a single judge of the Federal Court, and obviously we respect his role and his right to say what he said. But we don’t accept that it’s correct and we hope that the highest court will disagree with him.”

Arvay outlined during the court hearing in September the negative impact of extreme weather events such as floods and wildfires on his clients’ physical and mental health as well as their homes, cultural heritage and hopes for the future.

The youths across Canada claimed greenhouse gas emissions in particular have led to changes in the environment through the federal government’s support of fossil fuel exploration and extraction.

They also said subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and the purchase of the Trans Mountain Pipeline highlight Canada’s failure to fulfil its own commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Arvay argued the federal government is violating the youths’ right to life, liberty and security of the person under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as their right to equality because they are disproportionately affected by climate change.

However, Manson said that while there was agreement about the serious consequences of climate change by both the plaintiffs and the federal government, he did not accept that the youths’ charter rights are being violated.

Sierra Robinson, 18, a plaintiff in the case, said she is disappointed in the decision but it won’t stop the youths between the ages of 11 and 20 from fighting for a better future as many of them become old enough to vote.

“I was really hopeful that the court would be able to really listen to our case and really look at our claims because they are very, very important,” she said.

Robinson said rising temperatures have led to an increase in disease-carrying ticks on her family’s farm in the Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island, where she was bitten at around age 13 and suffered chronic fatigue, severe headaches and muscle pain. She was unable to walk and spent much of the summer in a wheelchair three years ago, she added.

“The government and the courts are saying that they don’t have a responsibility to do anything. That brings up the question: What is an adequate way to deal with these issues if you think this isn’t a place for the courts or this isn’t a place for youth to step up and try to create change. Where are they expecting change to come from?”

The youth are being supported by the David Suzuki Foundation, U.S.-based non-profit group Our Children’s Trust and the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation in Victoria.

Andrea Rodgers, a lawyer with Our Children’s Trust, said some of the lawyers, including Arvay, worked for free on the case that is similar to one filed against the United States government and includes 21 plaintiffs awaiting the decision in appeal.

“This is the first Canadian case we are involved with,” Rodgers said from Seattle. “Canadian youth, for years, have been really trying to get an action started after just seeing their government continue to miss whatever (greenhouse gas emissions) targets it sets and continuing to make the climate change problem worse.”

Rodgers said both the youth-led case in the U.S. and the one in Canada must move forward to higher courts because the issue of climate change will have a big impact on future generations.

“It’s pretty clear to us that Manson got it wrong,” she said of Tuesday’s court decision. “Hopefully, these kids will ultimately get their day in court.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2020.

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer RCMP say a 30-year-old man faces sexual charges against a teen. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Man killed in two-vehicle collision near Penhold, says Blackfalds RCMP

A 46-year-old man is dead following a two-vehicle collision on Highway 42… Continue reading

(Photo by Paul Cowley/ Advocate Staff)
Mask bylaws not popular in rural areas

Red Deer and Blackfalds bylaws requiring masks in public places kick in on Monday

Red Deer RCMP say a 30-year-old man faces sexual charges against a teen. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Innisfail RCMP arrest man following ‘lengthy pursuit’

Innisfail RCMP say a “lengthy pursuit” through a rural area ended with… Continue reading

hay
Hay’s Daze: Giraffe knows filling wishes can sometimes be a tall order

Last weekend, I had a lovely breakfast. “So what?” you may say.… Continue reading

A person enters a building as snow falls in Ottawa, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. Ottawa has been successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19 during its second wave thanks to the city’s residents who have been wearing masks and staying home, said Ottawa’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
People to thank for Ottawa’s success with curbing COVID-19: health officer

The city’s chief medical officer said much of the credit goes to the people who live in Ottawa

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh asks a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says tonight's public video gaming session with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is about reaching young people where they hang. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP leader stoked over ‘epic crossover’ in video gaming sesh with AOC

Singh and AOC discussed importance of universal pharmacare, political civility, a living wage

A south view of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf breaking apart is seen from Ward Hunt Island, Nunavut, in an Aug. 20, 2011, handout photo. The remote area in the northern reach of the Nunavut Territory, has seen ice cover shrink from over 4 metres thick in the 1950s to complete loss, according to scientists, during recent years of record warming. Scientists are urging the federal government to permanently protect a vast stretch of Canada's remotest High Arctic called the Last Ice Area. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-CEN/Laval University, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Scientists urge permanent protection of Last Ice Area in Canada’s High Arctic

Tuvaijuittuq has the thickest and oldest ice in the Arctic

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s $55 million Lotto Max jackpot

No winning ticket was sold for the $55 million jackpot in Friday… Continue reading

In this Friday, March 13, 2020, photo, Nic Talbott looks up from his computer at his home in Lisbon, Ohio. Talbott was participating in an Army ROTC program after an Obama administration policy permitted transgender people already serving in the military to be allowed to do so openly. As vice president in 2012, Joe Biden endeared himself to many LGBTQ Americans by endorsing same-sex marriage even before Obama. Now, as president-elect, Biden is making sweeping promises to LGBTQ activists, proposing to carry out virtually every major proposal on their wish lists. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Biden plans swift moves to protect and advance LGBTQ rights

As vice-president in 2012, Joe Biden endeared himself to many LGBTQ Americans… Continue reading

Canadian Olympic gymnast and National Sport School alumni Kyle Shewfelt announces his retirement in Calgary, Thursday, May 21, 2009. Calgary's board of education will close the National Sport School that has produced Olympic and Paralympic champions for 26 years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Calgary’s National Sport School to close, looks to join a different school division

Calgary’s National Sport School to close, looks to join a different school division

Canada's Erica Wiebe, left, celebrates after defeating Nigeria's Blessing Onyebuchi, right on the ground, to win Gold medal in women's FS 76Kg wrestling at the Commonwealth Games on Gold Coast, Australia, Thursday, April 12, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Manish Swarup
Canada’s Olympic champion wrestler Erica Wiebe eyes return to competition

Canada’s Olympic champion wrestler Erica Wiebe eyes return to competition

Most Read