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Climate lawsuit involving Sudbury activist headed to court

In 2019, Sudbury’s Sophia Mathur and six other Ontario young people launched a lawsuit against the province for, in their opinion, weakening climate change targets. Three years later, they will finally get their day in court
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Sophia Mathur is a young climate activist from Sudbury.

A lawsuit launched by seven Ontario youth against the provincial government in 2019 will finally go before a judge in September.

In the lawsuit launched in November 2019 with the support of environmental law charity Ecojustice, Sophia Mathur of Sudbury and six other young Ontario residents argue the province has significantly weakened its 2030 climate target, essentially moving backwards on climate action at a time when science says that all governments must do more. 

The seven young people are Sophia Mathur, Zoe Keary-Matzner, Shaelyn Wabegijig, Shelby Gagnon, Alex Neufeldt, Madison Dyck and Beze Grey. Learn more about them here.

Mathur et. al. will be heard before Ontario’s Superior Court on Sept. 12-14.

“This case is historic because it is the first climate lawsuit based on rights protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to be heard on its merits in a Canadian court,” Ecojustice stated in a news release. “A victory for these young people could set a precedent under the highest law of the land that no government in Canada can take action that contributes to the climate crisis without potentially violating Charter rights. A victory in this case would mean exponential progress in the fight for a safe climate future.”

In April 2020, the government of Ontario filed a motion to strike against the lawsuit, arguing it shouldn't go to a full hearing. The province's argument, as detailed in an email at the time to Sudbury.com from the Ministry of the Attorney General, is pretty simple.

"Ontario's position is that it is plain and obvious that the application will fail, as the issues raised are not matters that should be dealt with in court," said the statement supplied by Brian Gray, a spokesperson for the AG.

However in November, 2020, an Ontario court ruled the lawsuit can go ahead.

“This landmark victory is a legal first in Canada,” the group said in a statement issued by Ecojustice at the time. “For the first time ever, a Canadian court has ruled that fundamental rights protected under the Charter can be threatened by climate change and citizens have the ability to challenge a Canadian government’s action on the climate crisis under the highest law in the land.”

When the suit was launched, the seven young people ranged in age from 13 to 25. Three years have past since then. 

The group of activists allege the Government of Ontario’s “weakening” of climate change targets will lead to widespread illness and death, and violate Ontarians’ Charter-protected rights to life, liberty, and security of the person.