Sierra Robinson, 17, is one of 15 youths suing the Canadian government for failing to take action on climate change. (Facebook)

Sierra Robinson, 17, is one of 15 youths suing the Canadian government for failing to take action on climate change. (Facebook)

‘It’s terrifying’: B.C. teen leads effort to fight climate change

Fifteen teenagers are suing government for violating their right to life, liberty and security of the person

Sierra Robinson is just a normal teenager. She goes to school, hangs out with her friends and loves the outdoors.

She’s also one of 15 youths taking Ottawa to court for failing to tackle climate change, and possibly robbing her and other young people of the same quality of life as generations before her have enjoyed.

“I’ve grown up in the Cowichan Valley on my family’s farm. I spent every moment I could outside, climbing trees, catching frogs, playing with chickens,” Robinson told Black Press Media by phone.

“That’s developed a really strong connection with the outside.”

Robinson, 17, is frustrated by a government that has said they’re serious about climate change, but then turn around and buy a pipeline.

She feels Trudeau’s participation in the climate strikes is more lip service than action.

“We’re striking because of people like him, who are continuing to contribute to the climate crisis,” Robinson said.

“It’s terrifying because we can try to do everything we can on an individual level… but really, it’s [up to] our politicians, as they’re continuing to buy pipelines.”

The lawsuit has two sides: one is the right life, liberty and security of the person under section seven of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, while the other is more specific to the youths involved. That challenge will fall under section 15 of the charter, and argue that young people are directly impacted by climate change in a way older generations are not.

The youths are asking the federal court to create a science-based climate recovery plan, and stick to court-mandate targets so they can enjoy the same planet as generations before them.

READ MORE: 15 Canadian youths to sue Ottawa for not acting on climate change

Robinson knows suing the federal government is a drastic step. But it’s one she feel she has to take to get the government’s attention.

“We can’t vote yet, so we’re not included in these conversations that are shaping our futures,” she said.

Robinson hopes the lawsuit will bring the issue of climate change closer to home for politicians.

“They live in these big fancy houses, or they live in a way where they’re further away from the impacts,” she said.

“I’m just frustrated that we have to go to the level of an entire lawsuit to get our government to take action. People should have done this a long time ago.”

For Robinson, climate change hits a lot closer to home.

She remembers a neighbouring farmer whose well ran dry and had to choose between water for his cows, and watering his corn crop.

“He lost his whole crop of corn because he was only able to give that water to his cows to keep them alive,” Robinson said.

“That’s really scary.”

PHOTOS: Young protesters in B.C. and beyond demand climate change action

Robinson and the 14 other youths will be partnering with the David Suzuki Foundation, who are hopeful that the energy around climate change these days will push the courts to intervene.

“That’s a very positive potential is that it will spur governments attention and action on this issue, and make climate more of a priority,” foundation CEO Stephen Cornish said.

Cornish said court action was necessary because the steps being taken by Ottawa are not good enough.

“What’s important to note that this isn’t about a particular party,” Cornish noted.

“There have been successive generations of government who have not lived up to this.”

Cornish is hoping the lawsuit sets a precedent for other countries around the world

Lawyer Chris Tollefson, who will make up part of the legal team, said the lawsuit will aim to set a precedent that Canadians do have the rights when it comes to what sort of planet they live on.

“There is a right to a stable climate [and] the government can provide that,” Tollefson told Black Press Media by phone.

Tollefson said that young people will live more of their lives affected by climate change.

“Because they’re still growing physically, the impact of things like poor air quality, new kinds of diseases that are associated with climate change… those will impact them in a different way,” he said.

A victory, Tollefson said, “can help us to restore a stable climate and keep the courts to involved.”

READ MORE: B.C. communities push back against climate change damages campaign


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Department of Oceans and Fisheries has announced as of July 19 chinook salmon is not to be fished in certain areas in BC tidal waters until July. Spring chinook salmon are seen swimming. (Photo courtesy Michael Humling, US Fish & Wildlife Service)
Chinook Salmon limits set to zero in some BC tidal waters

DFO implement restrictions to protect Chinook Salmon

Richard Green and Alex Campbell stand in solemn reflection of the survivors and victims of the residential school system on May 30, in Prince Rupert National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21 is a time to reflect on the sacrifices and honour the contributions made by First Nations, Inuit and Metis of Canada. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Prince Rupert Reflecting on National Indigenous Peoples Day

June 21 is to celebrate the contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Metis to Canada’s culture

Mark Perry in concert at the old Driftwood School (Marty Clemens photo)
Mark Perry releases new single ahead of Northwest album.

“Golden Spruce” tells the story of a forester who cut down an old-growth Sitka Spruce on Haida Gwaii

Five rehabilitated grizzly bears were released this month into the Bella Coola area. The Northern Lights Wildlife Society will also be delivering 36 black bears to areas across the province where they were previously found. “They’re ready to go and they’re already trying to get out,” says Angelika Langen. “We feel good when we can make that possible and they don’t have to stay behind fences for the rest of their lives.” (Northern Lights Wildlife Society Facebook photo)
Suspected methamphetamine and scale seized by police. (Terrace RCMP photo)
Terrace RCMP seize guns, ammo, suspected narcotics

Man released after court appearance

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read