'We’re in it for the long haul': Two Sask. girls among 15 Canadian youth suing federal government
Lauren Wright and Sáj Gray-Starcevich have joined a class action lawsuit aimed at making the Canadian government take responsibility for its "inaction" and put together a science-based plan to reduce emissions.
Wright, a 15-year-old from Saskatoon, has been active in the climate change and environmental activism community in Saskatoon for years, organizing strikes, rallies, and helping to form a Saskatoon youth climate committee.
“We’re in it for the long haul,” Wright said of the potentially years-long court battle. “We’ve seen enough inaction and we are committing. We’re committing to this for as long as it’s going to take.”
Gray-Starcevich, 13, of Melfort, got involved in environmental activism through her love of animals, and joined the lawsuit for several reasons - one of which is the increased amount of flooding she has seen in her community.
“There has been really extreme weather, like really hot in the summer and really cold in the winter, also around our community there has been flooding and also fires,” she told CTV News.
Jason MacLean, a professor in the College of Law at the University of Saskatchewan, said this case is unique for many reasons, including that the plaintiffs aren't seeking compensation.
The suit instead calls for three things: for the government to acknowledge is has the duty to create and maintain a stable climate; to form a climate plan that is legally enforceable based on the best available science; and for the court to remain involved as a supervisor to ensure the plan is followed through, MacLean said.
Several similar lawsuits have been appearing around the world, including a successful one in the Netherlands, MacLean said.
“We're realizing the individuality of our task ahead," Wright said. "We’re not trying to copy any of them, we’re taking hope and we're taking inspiration, but we’re trying to do our own thing here too.”
Stephen Cornish, CEO of the David Suzuki Foundation, said the road may be long but “these young people, they’re discovering their voice, they’re very courageous, they also know they’re standing up and they’re representative of their peers.”
The two are joining 13 other Canadian youths, aged 10 to 19, along with the David Suzuki Foundation and the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation. They are represented by the law firm of Joseph Arvay, a Canadian constitutional lawyer.
The lawsuit was announced Oct. 25 in Vancouver at the climate rally attended by teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg – a person who inspires Wright.
“It was incredible, I actually got to meet Greta. It was absolutely surreal, all that energy, 15,000 people showed up.”