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

Eastbound lanes of Harvey Avenue closed after car crash

A mini-van and a car collided at the intersection of Dilworth and Harvey Avenue.

Icewine harvesting underway in Okanagan

Hundreds of tonnes of grapes expected to be harvested this year for icewine in surrounding Okanagan area

City of West Kelowna proposes 4.8% tax increase for 2020

Tax increase will generate $2.3 million more in revenue in comparison to 2019 budget, city says

Nominations for Kelowna Chamber of Commerce “40 Under Forty” now open

The chamber said the search for “Best of the Best” is on

Kelowna city council approves off-leash dog beach on Lake Avenue

This is the fourth off-leash dog beach to be implemented in Kelowna

China hints at national security trials for 2 Canadians detained for one year

The two Canadians’ detention is largely seen as retaliation for the arrest of a Huawei exec

B.C. seaplane company set to test the first commercial electronic plane

The plane is powered by a 750 horsepower electric motor

Fireballs to fill the sky Friday for brightest meteor shower of the year

Geminid meteor shower features colourful, brighter, longer shooting stars

Province sues over sailing incident that killed teen with disabilities

Gabriel Pollard, 16, died from injuries after marine lift failed

First Nations want Big Bar landslide cleared ASAP to allow fish passage

Leadership calling for urgent action and resources to remove obstruction on the Fraser

Assessed value of Lower Mainland homes expected to decrease in 2020

Other areas of province may see modest increases over last year’s values

Book examines history of B.C. wine industry

Author Luke Whittall has studied the growth of the industry from the mid-19th century to today

Chilliwack family’s therapy dog injured in hit and run

Miniature pit bull Fifty’s owner is a single mother facing close to $10,000 in vet bills

Most Read