Days after the conclusion of COP28, a unanimous decision by three justices on the Federal Court of Appeal re-opened the door to 15 youth suing the Canadian government for its alleged complicity in climate change. In La Rose v. His Majesty the King, judges ruled the youth deserve a trial to determine if Canada is fulfilling its constitutional obligations to protect children’s rights to life, liberty and security of the person under the Section 7 of the Charter. This ruling reverses a lower court decision won by the Government of Canada that the case should be tossed.“Climate change is having a dramatic, rapidly unfolding effect on all Canadians and on northern and indigenous communities in particular,” the justices wrote, adding, “it is also beyond doubt that the burden of addressing the consequences will disproportionately affect Canadian youth.”The ruling stated that climate change impacts on the plaintiffs could qualify as “special circumstances” that impose a duty on the government.“Where novel Charter claims test the boundaries of a right, such claims may require a trial in order to understand the nature of the legislation, executive action or regulation and the harm experienced by claimants. This is one of those cases,” wrote the justices. The justices also quoted a previous Supreme Court of Canada ruling that said climate change was “threatening the ability of indigenous communities in Canada to sustain themselves and maintain their traditional ways of life.”Our Children’s Trust was one of a handful of organizations involved in advancing the case.“Today’s decision plants a seed of hope for these young plaintiffs who are seeking climate justice,” said Andrea Rodgers, senior litigation attorney for the trust.“Now these young plaintiffs will finally have their day in court to tell their stories and hold their government accountable for violating their Charter rights. This ruling clears the path for young people to protect their lives, liberties and security.”Catherine Boies Parker, KC, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, also welcomed the ruling.“This decision contains very clear language that a trial is needed to hold Canada to account for its failure to limit GHG emissions. While the Court found that the claim must be amended to more specifically identify the provisions that lead to excess GHG emissions, the Court confirmed the right of these children to challenge Canada’s actions and inactions as causing significant harm to their security of the person,” Parker said.Tom Green, senior climate policy adviser for the David Suzuki Foundation, envisioned more lawsuits.“I see this going beyond the federal government. This should put every province blocking climate action on notice that there can be legal consequences for inaction and this empowers youth to demand comprehensive climate action plans from their provincial governments as well,” Green said.However, John Robson, executive director of Climate Discussion Nexus, expressed opposition to the suit."Climate policies that would upend our economy and way of life absolutely must be decided by the people’s elected representatives, not judges whose conception of the Constitutional 'living tree' is that they are the voice of Social Justice incarnate," he said in an email to the Western Standard.The La Rose plaintiffs from seven provinces and one territory filed their suit on October 25, 2019. The plaintiffs argued as youth they will disproportionately suffer from climate change.Plaintiff Albert L. of Montreal, said, “It’s discouraging that our government wasted four years of our time to argue against our right to just go to trial. But I’m grateful the justices had the courage to decide to hear us out and most importantly recognized that flexibility is necessary when addressing an existential issue with such a broad scope. This is a crucial first step to protecting the rights of youth in the face of the power that fossil fuel interests have in shaping policy in Canada.”Another plaintiff, Lauren W. of Saskatoon, said, “The chance to have our day in court on our section 7 claim is a massive step forward that brings me hope. As we move forward, we will continue fighting for a just future.”Plaintiff Zoe G.W. of Vancouver, added, “Children shouldn’t need to sue the government to protect ourselves from climate change. It’s time for Canada to stop fighting us in court and start fighting climate change.”The plaintiffs are supported by Our Children’s Trust and The David Suzuki Foundation; as well as the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation (CELL), an educational partner using this lawsuit to train the next generation of public interest lawyers.Our Children’s Trust, a US non-profit, included the first names, final initials, hometown and faces of the plaintiffs on their website. They were 10 to 19 years old when the suit was first filed in 2019. The organization represents and supports young people in climate litigation across the US and around the world. On December 10, the trust filed a landmark federal constitutional climate lawsuit, Genesis B. v. United States Environmental Protection Agency. In June, the trust brought the first constitutional climate trial in US history in Held v. State of Montana. In August, the young Montana plaintiffs received a landmark ruling that declared the state’s fossil fuel-favouring laws unconstitutional.Our Children’s Trust also represents 21 young plaintiffs in Juliana v. United States. An upcoming trial will determine whether the federal government’s fossil fuel-based energy system is unconstitutional for its potential to destabilize the climate.In June 2024, Navahine F. v. Hawai’i Department of Transportation is set to go to trial. Other active cases include Natalie R. v. State of Utah, and Layla H. v. Commonwealth of Virginia.