Tollefson Law

Tollefson Law is a law firm based in Victoria, British Columbia

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Government of Canada files Statement of Defence acknowledging significant harm of climate change but denying that Canadian youth have right to seek remedy in court

The plaintiffs in La Rose et. al. v. Her Majesty the Queen are seeking to hold Canada accountable for contributing to dangerous climate change and discriminating against youth

VANCOUVER, B.C. — On Friday, February 7, 2020, the federal government of Canada (“Canada”) filed its Statement of Defence in the youth-led climate change lawsuit, La Rose et. al. v. Her Majesty the Queen (“La Rose”). In this defence, Canada acknowledges that climate change is real, that it has significant negative impact on Canadians, and that addressing climate change is “of central importance to the Canadian government.” However, Canada claims that the 15 young Canadians should not be given public interest standing and that the courts are not the appropriate branch of government to provide the youth plaintiffs with their requested relief.

In its Statement of Defence, Canada’s admits:

Climate change is real, measurable, and documented. It is not a distant problem, but one that is happening now and that is having very real consequences on people’s lives. Its impacts will get more significant over time… Notwithstanding its global nature, climate change is having a particularly significant impact in Canada… Changes in climate are increasingly affecting Canada’s natural environment, economic sectors and the health of Canadians, and climate change is increasingly exacerbating the impacts of other stressors on natural systems in Canada and on the well-being of Canadians… While climate change is a global phenomenon, it has significant and particular impacts on Canada and Canadians.

Canada also does not dispute that the plaintiffs have suffered harm as a result of climate change. However, Canada intends to defend the case by claiming that the courts cannot review the government’s  decisions about climate change:

Addressing climate change is the shared responsibility of a multitude of different actors… Only the executive and legislative branches of government may make policy, pass laws and authorize the allocation of public funds.

Although Canada has tabled a climate plan, the federal government has not yet fully implemented it – including passing the policies and laws the scientific evidence suggests are required to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to safe levels; nor has it ceased pursuing counterproductive policies that in fact increase these emissions (i.e., consistent policy action in line with the current climate emergency).

The La Rose case was filed by 15 young Canadians from across the country on October 25, 2019. In the lawsuit, the youth claim that the federal government of Canada is contributing to dangerous climate change. The case also argues that the youth are already being harmed by climate change and the federal government is violating their rights to life, liberty and security of the person under section 7 of the Charter and for failing to protect essential public trust resources. The youth plaintiffs also allege that Canada’s conduct violates their right to equality under section 15 of the Charter, since youth are disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change.

The youth, from seven Canadian provinces and the Northwest Territories, are represented by the law firms of Arvay Finlay LLP and Tollefson Law Corporation, and are supported by the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation (CELL)David Suzuki Foundation, and Our Children’s Trust.

The lawsuit calls on Canada to cease violating the youth’s Charter and public trust rights and prepare and implement a plan that reduces Canada’s GHG emissions in a manner consistent with what the best available science indicates is needed for the federal government to protect young Canadians, do its fair share to stabilize the climate system, and avert the catastrophic consequences of climate change.

Youth plaintiffs in climate lawsuit
Photo Credit: Robin Loznak

15 Canadian Youth Launch Federal Climate Lawsuit to Protect Their Charter and Public Trust Rights

VANCOUVER, B.C. (25 October 2019) — Today, 15 young Canadians from across the country filed a lawsuit against the federal government of Canada for contributing to dangerous climate change.

The case argues the youth are already being harmed by climate change and the federal government is violating their rights to life, liberty and security of the person under section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and for failing to protect essential public trust resources. The youth also allege that their government’s conduct violates their right to equality under section 15 of the Charter, since youth are disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change.

The youth, from seven Canadian provinces and the Northwest Territories, are represented by the law firms of Arvay Finlay LLP and Tollefson Law Corporation, and are supported by the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation (CELL), David Suzuki Foundation, and Our Children’s Trust.

The lawsuit calls on Canada to cease violating the youth’s Charter and public trust rights and prepare and implement a plan that reduces Canada’s GHG emissions in a manner consistent with what best available science indicates is needed for the federal government to protect young Canadians, do its fair share to stabilize the climate system, and avert the catastrophic consequences of climate change.

You can read the claim here.

Our Team

CHRIS TOLLEFSON, Principal

Chris is the founding principal of Tollefson Law and a Professor of Law at the University of Victoria. Since 2016, he is also the founding Executive Director of Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation (CELL), Canada’s first charity dedicated to educating and training aspiring environmental litigators.

He has degrees from Queen’s, University of Victoria and Osgoode Hall Law School, and clerked at the BC Court of Appeal for Justices Lambert and Macdonald.

Chris combines teaching and research on environmental issues with counsel work for various public interest environmental clients. This counsel work has included appearances before all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada, and various environmental regulatory boards and tribunals. He was counsel to BC Nature and Nature Canada during both the Enbridge Northern Gateway and Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline hearing processes.

His publications cover a range of environmental and natural resource topics including environmental assessment, eco-certification, and access to justice. He is co-author (with Meinhard Doelle) of a leading environmental law textbook.

Chris is a former President of Ecojustice and founding executive director of the UVic Environmental Law Centre.

He has won various awards for his teaching and research, and in 2014 was the recipient of Nature Canada’s Conservation Partner Award for his work leading their legal team during the Northern Gateway pipeline hearings.

Email: chris@tollefsonlaw.ca

Anthony Ho

ANTHONY HO, Associate

Anthony received his J.D. from the University of Victoria in 2014, and was called to the British Columbia bar in May 2015. His areas of practice in public interest environmental law have included environmental assessments, regulatory hearings, and judicial reviews. He has appeared before the Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel, the NEB in its hearing into the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, the BC Environmental Appeal Board, the Federal Court of Appeal, and the BC Supreme Court. He also holds a Master of Public Administration (UVic ’14), a B.Sc. in environmental sciences (UBC ’10), and a B.A. in political science (UBC ’10).

In his capacity as Program Coordinator at the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation (CELL), he helps deliver CELL’s educational program, which trains law students in litigation practice skills through exposure to real-life pieces of public interest environmental litigation.

Email: anthony@tollefsonlaw.ca

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