Top court won’t hear Quebec group’s climate change lawsuit against Ottawa

The class action demanded $100 for each Quebecer under the age of 35, saying they would suffer more acutely from inaction on climate change.

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Canada’s Supreme Court on Thursday refused to hear an appeal from a Quebec environmental group seeking to launch a class-action lawsuit against the federal government, saying Ottawa has not done enough to combat climate change.

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As usual, the high court did not provide reasons for refusing to hear the appeal.

In a lawsuit filed in 2018, the Quebec organization ENvironnement JEUnesse accused the federal government of violating the rights to life, security and equality, as well as the right to live in a healthy environment. The class action demanded $100 for each Quebecer under the age of 35, saying that younger people would suffer more from the effects of climate change. The potential prize of $340 million would be used to fund actions against climate change.

The High Court judge who first heard the case dismissed the class action, ruling that the group of beneficiaries identified by ENvironnement JEUnesse was arbitrary and inappropriate.

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Last December, the Quebec Court of Appeal rejected an appeal by ENvironnement JEUnesse on the grounds that the lawsuit was directed at legislative and executive bodies and that an injunction would be an infringement of the powers vested in political authorities.

Catherine Gauthier, former director of ENvironnement JEUnesse, said Thursday that she was disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision. She said the “extremely important” legal questions of whether the federal government had violated security and equality rights and the right to live in a healthy environment would remain unanswered for now.

However, Gauthier said he was happy that the legal process had been “a formidable tool to educate and raise awareness among the population about the right to a healthy environment, about the protection of the environment, respect for biodiversity and the fight against climate change”.

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