The petitioners sought authorization to institute a class action against the government of Canada for failing to take necessary measures to limit global warming, in violation of the fundamental rights of “all Quebec residents aged 35 and under as of 26 November 2018.” The petitioners argued that Canada had not established adequate GHG emission reduction targets, and that it’s inaction, alongside the government’s recognition of the risks of not taking action, constitutes bad faith and unlawful and intentional interference with the class’s fundamental rights protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Canadian Charter) and the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Quebec Charter). The respondent argued that a class action was not the appropriate procedure for this claim; that the Tribunal had no jurisdiction to issue an order that interferes with the legislative and executive branches; that the environment is a shared competency, whereby the alleged human rights abuses cannot be stopped by Canada alone; and that requirements for a class action were not satisfied. The Court stated that the authorization of a class action required the applicant to establish a good colour of right, a prima facie right, or a defensible cause. The Court dismissed the authorization to institute a class action, finding it an unnecessary procedural vehicle, and did not rule on the substantive issues.
Environmental Legal Questions:
- Where the issues raised by the petitioner justiciable? In general, the courts do not interfere in the exercise of executive power, but in the case of an alleged violation of the rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter, a court should not decline jurisdiction based on the doctrine of justiciability. The Court concluded that the doctrine of justiciability is not, in this case, an obstacle to the authorization of the class action that the petitioner seeks to pursue.
- Do the petitioners have standing for a class action? The Court stated that it was “perplexed” by the choice of a 35 years old maximum. The petitioners did not provide sufficient factual or rational explanations of this choice. The Court put forth questions that challenged this number. Therefore, group identity issues ultimately prevented standing.