The Canadian government is currently being sued – all in the name of . In the  La Rose v. Her Majesty the Queen, plaintiffs claim that the Canadian government’s actions to combat climate change have been “grossly insufficient” and the government has consistently failed to meet greenhouse gas emissions targets. The Queen of England, ’s head of state, as well as Canada’s federal government, are being named the defendants in the case. The plaintiffs? All young Canadians ranging in age from 11 to 19 years old. 

The lawsuit makes further claims that the Canadian government contributes to and perpetuates Canada’s concerning greenhouse gas emissions levels. Thus, the government is ultimately responsible for the damaging effects of climate change that are being experienced by citizens in Canada. Noted environmental concerns in Canada related to climate change include increased flooding, more wildfire outbreaks, thawing permafrost, rising sea levels, and health issues related to poor air quality. 

Plaintiffs in the suit mention that the effects of climate change will negatively impact their generation most, incentivizing them to act by way of suing the federal government for their incriminating lack of action. The perceived apathy on behalf of the government to reach fossil fuel emissions goals to ease the burden of climate change is felt strongly among the plaintiffs. 

Sierra Robinson, a 17-year-old activist and plaintiff in the La Rose case, spoke to Inside Climate News stating that “our natural resources are at risk because of climate change, and as a young person my rights are being violated disproportionately compared to older generations.” She also mentioned that “the federal government is knowingly contributing to the climate crisis by continuing to support and promote fossil fuels and through that they are violating our charter rights.” 

Young Climate Change Activists Rising Up Around the Globe  

The Canadian lawsuit is similar to a lawsuit brought on by young climate activists here in the United States known as Juliana v. United States. Juliana is the first lawsuit to argue that there is a constitutional right for citizens to live in a healthy and safe environment.  

When the Juliana case was first filed in 2015, Obama and President Trump were initially named as defendants, along with entities such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of . While the President was eventually removed from the list of defendants, his department made numerous attempts to throw the climate change lawsuit out completely before it was eventually overturned to courts in Oregon earlier this year. For now, the Juliana case is currently on hold with no official decision one way or another regarding whether or not the case will go to trial. 

Plaintiffs in the Juliana case have mentioned that, due to their inability to vote due to their age, suing the government is the only way to have their voices heard when it comes to climate change concerns. Activists and plaintiffs in the La Rose case are echoing similar sentiments. 

Addressing Climate Change in Canada and Worldwide 

Ultimately, younger generations have every reason to be concerned about climate change and every right to have their anxieties recognized. There is no denying that as climate change worsens, the youngest citizens of the world will be most victimized. Without reaching greenhouse gas emission reduction goals and working to prevent climate change from accelerating, young citizens around the world will be left to deal with the potentially devastating environmental consequences of climate change once older generations are no longer around.  

It is a shame to think that our governments and other public entities may fail youth everywhere due to a lack of action, continued support of fossil fuels, and lack of concern for what our world may look like if climate change gets any worse. Although it is still too early to tell whether or not the La Rose case in Canada or the Juliana case in the United States will have any impact on these entities to enact real change, the rise of these lawsuits by youth climate change activists is indicative of the urgency felt by young citizens worldwide when it comes to this emergent crisis. 

Resources: 

https://www.latimes.com/science/la-sci-youth-climate-trial-juliana-20190603-story.html 

https://insideclimatenews.org/news/25102019/canada-children-climate-change-lawsuit-fossil-fuels-teens-youth-erosion-permafrost-wildfires 

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