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Seven Youth Sue Ford Government for ‘Tearing Up Ontario’s Climate Laws’

Doug Ford Ontario governmentDoug Ford/Flickr

Seven Ontario youth are suing the Doug Ford government for “tearing up the province’s climate laws and violating their Charter rights to life, liberty, and security of the person,” Ecojustice announced yesterday.

Mathur et. al. v. Her Majesty in Right of Ontario challenges the government for adopting the Cap and Trade Cancellation Act in 2018. The bill “repealed what were considered to be relatively strong greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2020, 2030, and 2050. The government then replaced these targets with a single, significantly weaker 2030 target,” the environmental law charity explains [1].

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“By weakening the province’s targets, the Government of Ontario will allow significantly more greenhouse gas emissions to be emitted, further fueling the climate emergency and contributing to dangerous climate change-related impacts such as heat waves, floods, fires, and poor air quality that will harm the health of people throughout Ontario,” Ecojustice adds. “As young people, the applicants say they and people like them will bear the costs of climate inaction more than previous generations.”

The applicants include Sophia Mathur, 12, of Sudbury, Zoe Keary-Matzner, 13, of Toronto, Shaelyn Wabegijig, 22, of Rama First Nation near Orillia, Shelby Gagnon, 23, of Thunder Bay, Alex Neufeldt, 23, of Ottawa, Madison Dyck, 23, or Thunder Bay, and Beze Gray, 24, of Aamjiwnaang First Nation.

“It’s important for me to be part of this lawsuit because my generation deserves a future,” Mathur said. “When I grow up, I want to be a lawyer. I also have lots of other hopes and dreams and I want the chance to make them come true. That’s why it was important for me to start striking for the climate in November 2018, and why I’m working with other young people to take the government to court today.”

“I’m part of this lawsuit for everyone, for future generations and for our non-human relatives,” said Wabegijig. “If I ever bring children into this world, I want to be able to share healthy air, land, and water, a safe climate, and my culture. As a member of the Caribou Clan, my cultural identity is interconnected with Ontario’s boreal caribou, and it risks disappearing if this species is wiped out.”

“Open for business is Doug Ford’s favourite catch phrase,” Neufeldt added. “But if he really cared about protecting the economy for entrepreneurs like me, he wouldn’t have rolled back the province’s climate targets. We can help stop climate change and create jobs. But we need the political will to do it.”

“I grew up beside petrochemical refineries in Ontario’s Chemical Valley.,” explained Gray. “I know the impacts of big corporation on the land and people, what happens to the land, happens to the people. When I think about the future, I feel scared about how climate change will impact my community’s way of practicing our culture, teachings, and our health. We need to hold the Ford government accountable for upholding treaties and higher standards for the land and future.”

“As I stood listening from the back of the media room today at Queen’s Park, I was struck by how poignantly these young people—who range in age from 12-23—spoke of the responsibility they feel to those even younger than them,” Ecojustice lawyer Devon Page wrote [3] yesterday. “One by one, they expressed fear, anger, and grief that the actions of governments today will force them—as well as their younger siblings, cousins, and future children—to shoulder the oppressive weight of the climate crisis. Because of this, they say they have no choice but to take legal action against their own government to defend their right to a safe and just future.”

A spokesperson Attorney General Doug Downey said Ontario had not yet been served in the case and wouldn’t comment on a matter before the courts, National Observer reports [4]. Andrew Buttigieg, spokesperson for Environment Minister Jeff Yurek, said the Ford government “is working hard to balance a healthy environment with a healthy economy,” adding that “there’s more than one way to fight climate change. That is why our plan respects the unique economic circumstances of our province and reduces emissions without additional taxes.”

NDP climate critic Peter Tabuns said the lawsuit is an important part of the push to counter the provincial government’s climate inaction. “Young people have decided to fight back,” he told Observer. “They are defending the future for all of us.”