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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Charges laid in 2019 single-vehicle crash in Surrey that killed young soccer star

Dilpreet Sandhu, 19, faces eight charges in early morning crash that killed Brandon Bassi

Surrey pushing the poor out of Whalley, public hearing speakers say

‘There is a war on the poor here in Surrey,’ resident Dave Diewert tells city council

IHIT investigating death of Surrey woman

Injured woman was taken to SMH early Tuesday morning

Surrey seniors call Seniors’ Centre Without Walls, a new-to-B.C. program

‘Crazy coincidence’ saw program connect soon after COVID-19 pandemic hit

Surrey Mounties seize guns, drugs and cash from Guildford residence

One man was arrested but no charges have been laid as investigation continues

If Trudeau won’t stand up to Trump, how will regular people: Singh

Trudeau did not directly answer a question about Trump’s actions amid protests

VIDEO: Internal investigation into aggressive arrest by Kelowna Mountie

A video allegedly shows a Kelowna Mountie striking a man several times

COVID claims 23rd Langley Lodge patient, making it the deadliest outbreak in B.C.

Coronavirus kills another senior at Langley care home, bringing B.C. total to 166

Family of dead B.C. football star urge changes to mental health policies in hospitals

Uko family disappointed in actions of Regina hospital, hosting public funeral service this weekend

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Importance of accurate, ethical reporting more critical than ever

22 new COVID-19 test-positives, one death following days of low case counts in B.C.

Health officials urged British Columbians to ‘stand together while staying apart’

John Horgan says COVID-19 restrictions won’t be eased regionally

B.C. Liberals urge ‘tailored’ response based on infections

Feds get failing grade for lack of action plan on anniversary of MMIWG report

‘Instead of a National Action Plan, we have been left with a Lack-of-Action Plan’

Maple Ridge woman fights WorkSafe BC over police widow’s pension

Dalila Vroom says husband, Const. Rob Vroom, died as a result of PTSD from time with Abbotsford PD

Most Read