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Sask. climate activists have first day in court in lawsuit to decarbonize electrical grid


A group of climate activists suing the Saskatchewan government over its bid to build more gas-powered electric plants will soon have its first day in court.

The group of seven individuals aged 15 to 80, and Climate Justice Saskatoon filed its lawsuit in March 2023, arguing the government’s continued development of fossil fuel electric plants violates people’s Charter rights by exacerbating dangerous climate change.

They’re asking the court to order SaskPower, the Crown Investments Corporation and the Saskatchewan government to prepare plans to decarbonize the electrical grid.

On Friday, the litigation will be heard in a Regina courtroom for the first time as a King’s Bench judge rules on whether to grant the Saskatchewan Environmental Society intervener status.

“We anticipate hearing oral arguments from SES, from the government lawyers, from the SaskPower and CIC lawyers, and from the legal team for the main applicants,” the Saskatchewan Coalition for Sustainable Development said in an update on its website.

Court will hear from Robert Halliday, a Saskatoon water resource engineer who’s bringing the application on behalf of the environmental society.

“My interest in SaskPower’s generation matters was sharpened by the challenges the organization faced in meeting cooling water demands at the Boundary Dam power station during the 1980s drought,” he wrote in his affidavit before the court.

“That matter was addressed by pumping the Estevan aquifer; 30 years later the aquifer still has not recovered.”

A spokesperson for SaskPower said the company could not comment on the case as it was still before the courts.

The coalition’s youngest member, 15-year-old Tommy Douglas Collegiate student Sabrina Dykstra, says the threat of climate change overshadows many of the things she does.

The coalition’s youngest member, 15-year-old Tommy Douglas Collegiate student Sabrina Dykstra. (Source: Sask. Coalition for Sustainable Development)

“As climate change progresses, I can foresee a multitude of issues that may arise across my lifetime,” she wrote in her affidavit.

“It will be less safe to be outdoors in extreme weather. The air will be even less clean to breathe. Droughts could severely affect the wellbeing of ecosystems.”

Dykstra says she’s made changes to her behaviour to reduce her own emission, and she expects her government to do the same.

“My attempts at personal change are futile if the Saskatchewan government doesn’t take it seriously,’ she said.

“I often feel hopeless, because so many people just don’t care … This year, I also heard our Premier, the Honourable Scott Moe, say that even he ‘doesn’t care’ that our [greenhouse gas] emissions in Saskatchewan are the highest per capita in Canada.”

A spokesperson for the provincial Ministry of Justice told CTV News the government stands behind its decision to build natural gas-fired power plants.

"This is the most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the province without causing undue harm to our people and our economy," the emailed statement said.

The spokesperson declined to comment further as the matter is before the courts, but he said the province is aware that "similar litigation has been commenced in many places around the world." Top Stories

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