We live in a time when small items of news seem to hold portentous meaning for our way of life. I have come across at least three of these over the last two days. Two of them seem to reveal extremely stupid political decisions, but let’s take the positive one first:
A Quebec youth group called ENvironnement JEUnesse is launching a class action law suit against the federal government for having failed people under the age of 35 by not adopting adequate measures to deal with climate warming.
ENvironnement JEUnesse (get the significance of the capitals: ENJEU -- which means, according to one translation, they really care about this issue and are not going to lose interest) has filed an application in Quebec Superior Court through its pro bono law firm of Trudel Johnson and Lesperence, for authorization to bring a class action against the Canadian government on behalf of Quebeckers aged 35 and under. The group alleges that the government is infringing on a generation’s fundamental rights, because its greenhouse gas reduction target is not ambitious enough to avoid dangerous climate change, and because it does not even have a plan that would allow it to reach this already inadequate goal. They say that if the government continues in this direction “people under 35 will suffer the severe consequences of climate change thus depriving them of their right to life and security of the person, their right to equality and their right to an environment in which biodiversity is preserved.”
I had hardly time to cheer and say, “and so say all of us,” before the release quoted the group’s executive director Catherine Gauthier as saying that “Instead of accelerating a green transition, Canada is subsidizing oil companies and purchasing a pipeline in our name." Bingo! I thought, right on! Because the government has ludicrously argued about who has jurisdiction to build a pipeline, when the real issue is that building the pipeline would expand the climate-destroying Alberta Tar Sands, which it seems to me every right-thinking Canadian should be in favour of shutting down completely, if we are to play our part in getting climate warming under control. But that seems to be the last thing the government wants Canadians to be debating and discussing.
Mlle Gauthier has it absolutely right when she argues: "We demand that our rights and those of future generations be protected and respected. We demand that Canada act without delay to avoid dangerous global warming, above 1.5 degs C, as recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change."
And Bruce Johnston, one of their lawyers, also has it right when he explains that "the Canadian government's behaviour infringes on several fundamental rights protected by the Canadian and Quebec charters…. We believe that we have a solid legal case that deserves to be brought before the courts."
Several similar proceedings have been instituted around the world, notably in the Netherlands, where the government was forced to adopt a concrete plan to reach its climate target. The Dutch government is legally bound to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% by 2020 compared to 1990 levels. Similar legal actions are ongoing in the United States, Belgium, Norway, Ireland, New Zealand, Switzerland, Colombia and the United Kingdom.
An information kit is available at www.enjeu.qc.ca/justice.
Enthusiastic, I immediately banged off a letter to the group telling them: “I am a 90-year-old man, and I want to heartily congratulate you on your action against the government. More especially I am encouraged that you have linked the government action in buying the pipeline to this matter. This has brought all sorts of business people and conservative-minded people out of the closet in defence of expanding the Alberta Tar Sands, a measure that will make nonsense of our national objectives towards controlling climate warming.”
Almost immediately I received a reply from them, sounding rather dazed, perhaps at having received a letter written in English, or perhaps at hearing from a 90-year-old supporting their clear-sighted actions.
“On behalf ENVironnement JEUnesse, I thank you wholeheartedly for your message!....We need you. Here are three actions you can take to support us: 1. Support our cause and become a member 2. Stay informed of the case 3. Subscribe to our newsletter (French only)
Again, I want to express my gratitude for your support in our movement.
Marikim and all the team.”