La Rose plaintiffs group photo

Canadian Youth File Amended Statement of Claim in Constitutional Climate Lawsuit

May 31, 2024

Three of the plaintiffs here photographed during the launch of this lawsuit in 2019 (L to R): Haana Edenshaw, Cecilia La Rose, Albert Lalonde. Photo by Robin Loznak; Courtesy of Our Children’s Trust.

VANCOUVER, B.C. (31 May 2024) — Thirteen youth plaintiffs in the federal climate lawsuit, La Rose v. His Majesty the King, today filed their Amended Statement of Claim putting their case back on a path towards trial. The filing follows the December 13, 2023, unanimous decision by the Federal Court of Appeal, where justices ruled that the youth deserve a trial to determine if Canada is fulfilling its constitutional obligations to protect children’s rights to life, liberty and security of the person under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Amended Statement of Claim, brought by young people from seven provinces and one territory, details how Canada’s actions contribute to the escalating climate crisis. Alongside several other similar cases around the world, La Rose v. His Majesty the King argues that the government’s actions to perpetuate the climate crisis (or, as in other cases, inaction to prevent it) can be found by law to be in violation of citizens’ basic human rights.

“These updated claims underscore the danger of Canada’s existing framework to address the urgent demands of the climate emergency.” said Andrea Rodgers, Deputy Director, U.S. Strategy, for Our Children’s Trust. “Canada’s high emissions and repeated failure to meet its own targets make it clear that there is a need for judicial intervention so that the Court can provide guidance as to Canada’s constitutional obligations to protect young people from climate pollution.”

The Amended Statement of Claim also emphasizes that climate change constitutes a special circumstance, warranting the Court’s recognition that the youth in Canada possess the positive right to a safe climate system.

Some of the climate impacts the youth plaintiffs have experienced include: flooding damage to property and agricultural lands, contamination of water supplies, loss of cultural heritage landmarks, waterborne diseases, exposure to unprecedented heatwaves and wildfires, and adverse impacts to the livelihoods and cultural rights to Indigenous communities.

Plaintiff Sadie stated, “I can feel the wildfire smoke coming earlier each and every year, washing my city in murky light, canceling activities, and limiting access to the outdoors. Each time this happens, it makes me more worried for the future I see ahead of me, and reminds me why I am a part of this case. I have been part of La Rose vs. His Majesty the King for 5 years now. It feels like a long time – and it is; with the ever-increasing wildfires and other climate change events becoming worse every year, more and more change must be made, and faster. I have hope in this case, hope it can contribute to protecting the future of the youth of Canada, hope that it can hold our government accountable, hope that it may help limit these wildfires for future generations.”

“Alongside youth across the North, I have witnessed and experienced the forefront of climate change that poses a monumental threat to humanity,” said plaintiff Kira, “I am joining the La Rose case because my generation and those to come are entitled to a planet that can sustain livelihoods, but also an environment that is conducive to harmony, peace, and integrity. Our leaders must be held accountable for the systemic violation of the rights of youth that is occurring today, because there is still time to secure a livable future.”

The youth plaintiffs are represented by Catherine Boies Parker, K.C. and David Wu of Arvay Finlay LLP; Chris Tollefson and Anthony Ho of Tollefson Law Corporation; and by Reidar Mogerman of CFM Lawyers LLP; the brilliant trailblazer Joseph J. Arvay, Q.C. was also an architect and co-counsel for this case before his passing in 2020. The plaintiffs are supported by Our Children’s Trust and the David Suzuki Foundation; as well as the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation (CELL), an educational partner using this lawsuit to train the next generation of public interest lawyers.

Read the Amended Statement of Claim here.

Katrina Darychuk

Law Student

Katrina (she/her) is a J.D. candidate at the University of Victoria, Faculty of Law with interests in criminal law, disability justice, and environmental litigation. Most recently, Katrina worked in Whitehorse, YK with the Public Prosecution Service and will clerk with the Supreme Court of British Columbia in 2025.  

She holds a BA from University of Toronto in Critical Equity Studies and Ethics and a diploma in Theatre Arts from Langara College. Prior to law, Katrina worked as theatre director and creator across Canada. Her passions include gardening, thrifting, and walking her beloved dog Joe.

Patrick McDermott

Law Student

  • Santa Cruz Superior Court
  • California Attorney General’s Office, Land Use and Conservation Section

Patrick is a J.D. candidate at the University of Victoria, Faculty of Law. He is passionate about public interest environmental law as well as criminal justice reform. Patrick has a B.A. from University of California, Davis, and has legal experience in both Canada and the United States. Upon graduation, he will be clerking at the BC Supreme Court in Vancouver. In his spare time, he can be found backpacking, woodworking, baking, or running with his dog.

Lydia Young

Articled Student

  • 2022 Student mentor in the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation | educational program
  • Associate Fellow, Centre for International Sustainable Development Law
 
Lydia received her J.D. from the University of Victoria in 2023 with a concentration in environmental law and sustainability and will be called to the British Columbia Bar in 2024. Lydia is pursuing an 2024-25 LL.M. in Global Environment and Climate Change Law at the University of Edinburgh.
 
As an articling student at Tollefson Law, Lydia has gained experience working on environmental, constitutional and natural resource litigation and has sat at counsel table before the BC Supreme Court and BC Court of Appeal. Lydia is pursuing a career that focuses on biodiversity conservation, natural resource law, green economies and sustainable development.

Anthony Ho

Associate

  • Program Coordinator at the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation 
 
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, judicial reviews, and trials. 
 
He has appeared before the Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal, the BC Supreme Court, and various tribunals including the National Energy Board and BC Environmental Appeal Board. 
 
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.
 
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). He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Law and Society at UVic.

Chris Tollefson

Principal

  • Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, University of Victoria
  • Founding Executive Director of CELL – Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation
  • Past President of Ecojustice
 
Chris is the founding principal of Tollefson Law and a Professor of Law at the University of Victoria. He has degrees from Queen’s, University of Victoria and Osgoode Hall Law School, and clerked at the BC Court of Appeal.
 
Chris has appeared at all levels of trial and appeal court, and before various environmental regulatory boards and tribunals. He was counsel to BC Nature and Nature Canada during the Northern Gateway and Trans Mountain pipeline hearing processes.


 
He has published on a diverse range of environmental and natural resource topics including forestry, contaminated sites, environmental governance and assessment, eco-certification, and access to justice. The fourth edition of his national environmental textbook (co-authored with Prof. Meinhard Doelle) was published by Thomson Reuters in 2023.
 
He loves the outdoors, late night pool games, early morning reno projects, and dog sitting.