Judge rejects young Quebecers' novel lawsuit seeking federal climate change action
Smoke rising from a factory as a truck loaded with cars crosses a bridge in Paris, France, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Michel Euler
The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, July 16, 2019 3:21PM EDT
MONTREAL -- A Quebec environmental group says it will appeal a decision last week rejecting its attempt to launch a class action lawsuit against the federal government for what it says is a failure to combat climate change.
Superior Court Justice Gary Morrison delivered his ruling Thursday, emphasizing that the cause of environmental protection was of undoubted importance but raising doubts about the nature of the class seeking damages.
The action brought by the group ENvironnement JEUnesse would be on behalf of Quebecers aged 35 and under, whom lawyers argue are being deprived of a right to a healthy environment and will suffer the effects of global warming more than older generations.
It was seeking $100 for each Quebecer in that age bracket -- but given that doling out an award estimated at $340 million would have been complicated and expensive, the proposed action suggested the money be spent on measures to curb climate change.
In the decision, Morrison said members of the class would have to be 18 or older.
And he said excluding those older than 35 appeared to be a "purely subjective and arbitrary choice" by the organization.
"Although the mission and objectives of (the group) are admirable on the socio-political level, they are too subjective and limiting in their nature to form the basis of an appropriate group for the purpose of exercising collective action," Morrison wrote. The group "can be the 'voice' of young people," he added, "but it does not have the authority to change the legal status and powers of minors."
The organization countered in a statement there is an trend internationally that says children must have access to justice on the issue of climate.
Catherine Gauthier, the group's executive director, says it will appeal the decision.
The group is being represented pro bono by Trudel, Johnston & Lesperance, a well-known Montreal class-action firm.