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Climate case against Ford PCs grows, will include more voices

Rama youth, among those leading the charge, says she feels 'empowered with more Indigenous voices and perspectives represented at the trial in September'
Shaelyn Wabegijig
Shaelyn Wabegijig, who grew up in Rama, is one of seven youth suing the provincial government over its decision to weaken the province's climate targets in 2018, a move they say violated their rights. Contributed photo

The climate lawsuit Ontario’s Ford government would rather forget is going to hear from six environmental, Indigenous and other groups in addition to the seven young people — including a young woman from Rama First Nation — who say its actions threaten their fundamental rights, the court ruled this month.

Indigenous Climate Action, the David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights, the Assembly of First Nations, Friends of the Earth, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and For Our Kids were granted intervenor status in the legal challenge, the Superior Court of Justice announced earlier this week.

“I am delighted that these groups are now joining our case,” lead applicant Sophia Mathur said. “The more voices that can present the impact the climate crisis is having on communities across the province, the better our chances are that we can secure a victory and help build a safer, more sustainable future.”

She said “young people around the world are stepping forward and holding their governments to account for failing to take sufficient action on the climate emergency."

One of those young people is Rama First Nation's Shaelyn Wabegijig.

“I am grateful and honoured that these respected organizations will be part of this important lawsuit alongside us," Wabegijig told OrilliaMatters

"As an Anishinaabe woman, I feel especially supported and empowered with more Indigenous voices and perspectives represented at the trial in September," she said, adding "many thanks to all our intervenors for supporting us in protecting the climate and securing our future.”

The groups will be allowed to present 15-page factums on their specific contributions to the case (but no new evidence) and make 15-minute oral presentations during the proceedings, which are scheduled to take place in September.

The seven young people, backed by Ecojustice, argue that Premier Doug Ford’s weakened climate targets breach their constitutional right to life, liberty and security. Their case challenging a lack of government action to deal with climate change is the first such case to proceed to a hearing in Canada.

The Progressive Conservative government had sought to have the case dismissed, saying it would be impossible to prove harm, but that request was rejected in late 2020.

The government gutted existing climate targets after coming to power in 2018 as it dismantled a cap-and-trade emissions scheme and the green policies it helped fund.

Natalie Caine, a mother and organizer with the For Our Kids advocacy group, said the network would not let their children face the climate crisis alone.

“Our intervention in this case is one of the important ways parents are getting involved and supporting young people in this crucial moment in history,” Caine said. “We must curb climate change and create a safer future for all our kids.”

Rebecca Sinclair from Indigenous Climate Action said that gaps in Ontario’s climate policies “reflect their blind spots as a colonial government” and that Indigenous views “are structurally excluded from decision-making tables about future climate plans.”

“Indigenous sovereignty cannot be ignored, and we are so proud of our youth who are taking a legal stand to ensure Indigenous values and expertise are included in future climate policies and taking a stand for their future,” said Sinclair, the group’s director of education and programming.

--With files from Dave Dawson

Morgan Sharp is Local Journalism Initiative (LJI) reporter for Canada's National Observer. The LJI program is funded by the Government of Canada.