Seven young Ontarians will face down their provincial government in court this September in a crucial moment in the fight against the climate emergency in Canada. Mathur et. al. will be heard before Ontario’s Superior Court on September 12 to 14.

Backed by Ecojustice, Canada’s largest environmental law charity, the young environmentalist advocates (Sophia, Zoe, Shaelyn, Alex, Shelby, Madi, and Beze) are leading a legal challenge of the Ontario government’s decision to alter the province’s 2030 climate target.

This case is historic because it is the first climate lawsuit based on rights protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to be heard on its merits in a Canadian court.

“It is not lost on my generation that we are running out of time to avert a climate catastrophe,” said Alex Neufeldt of Ottawa, Ontario. “That is why this September I will be taking part in a historic lawsuit to challenge the Ontario government for its failures in addressing the climate crisis. I hope that young people across Ontario, and across Canada, will support our efforts to hold the provincial government accountable.”

Earth Day special: How the Mathur et. al. climate case is making history

The applicants, who hail from communities across Ontario and range in age from 12 to 24,
are represented by lawyers from Ecojustice and Stockwoods LLP in this public interest litigation. Image credit: Ecojustice.

A victory for these young people could set a precedent under the highest law of the land that no government in Canada can take action that contributes to the climate crisis without potentially violating Charter rights. A victory in this case would mean exponential progress in the fight for a safe climate future.

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These young applicants will be joined by other youth from across Ontario in a rally in support of their case Sunday, September 11 at 2 pm at Queen’s Park in Toronto. At the rally and in court, the seven youth will outline why they are taking the Ontario government to court in a fight for their generation.

“The Ontario government’s dangerous approach to climate change has put our collective future and that of future generations at risk,” said Danielle Gallant, Ecojustice lawyer. “Climate-related legal challenges have become a powerful tool for young people to demand change and hold governments accountable for failing to take the climate crisis seriously and actively contributing to its harms.

Mathur et. al. was launched in November 2019 to challenge the Ontario government’s revision of climate targets. On April 15, 2020, the government filed a motion to strike the case, arguing it should not proceed to a full hearing. The youth applicants countered this motion in July 2020, arguing that they deserved their day in Court.

This led to a historic win on November 12, 2020. For the first time in Canadian history, a court recognized that climate change has the potential to violate Charter rights and gave the youth the green light to move ahead to a full hearing. The Ontario government then tried to overturn this ruling, but in March 2021 the Ontario Divisional Court dismissed the province’s request to appeal.

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Featured image credit: Queen’s Park, Government of Ontario.


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