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In Their Own Words: Plaintiffs & Their Lawyers Speak About Youth Climate Cases, Part 2 – La Rose v Canada

January 31 @ 12:30 pm - 2:00 pm


The Centre for Law and the Environment’s four-part series, In Their Own Words: Plaintiffs and Their Lawyers Speak About Leading Youth Climate Cases, covers four leading cases from Canada and the US in which youth are demanding climate accountability and action from their government. Each session in the series will delve into a particular case and attendees will get to learn about the case from one of the youth plaintiffs and one of their lawyers. The speakers will join virtually. Audience can join the session in person at Allard Hall (with free lunch included) or join the webinar virtually.

About La Rose v. His Majesty the King in Right of Canada

In October 2019, fifteen youth plaintiffs from across Canada filed the La Rose lawsuit, claiming that the federal government of Canada is contributing to climate change. The case argues that the youth are already being harmed by climate change and the federal government is violating their rights to life, liberty, and security of the person under section 7 of Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for failing to protect essential public trust resources. The youth plaintiffs also allege that Canada’s conduct violates their right to equality under section 15 of the Charter because youth are disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change. Moreover, they also claim that the public trust doctrine is part of Canadian common law and that the federal government is violating its duty to safeguard the atmosphere as a public trust.

The lawsuit asks the Federal Court of Canada to declare that the government’s conduct violates the Charter and the government’s common law public trust duties, and to order the government to prepare and implement a climate recovery plan to reduce Canada’s GHG emissions and decarbonize Canada’s energy system in line with what scientists say is necessary to stabilize the climate system and protect the rights of youth.

In December, 2023, the Federal Court of Appeal issued a landmark ruling allowing the case to proceed to trial, albeit on a narrower basis restricted section 7 of the Charter.

Please register to attend in person at Allard Hall or via Zoom. 

About the Speakers

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Chris Tollefson

Chris Tollefson has played a variety of roles in his legal career. For over thirty years, he has been a full-time law professor at UVic — teaching criminal and environmental law to hundreds of JD students. He has also been a pioneer in clinical legal education serving for over 20 years as executive director of the UVic Environmental Law Centre, and six years ago establishing the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation (“CELL”) — Canada’s first experiential program in public interest environmental litigation.

He has numerous publications on various topics including costs and access to justice, forest certification, contaminated sites, Indigenous rights and cumulative effects, climate litigation and SLAPP suits. In August 2023 Thomson Reuters published the 4th edition of the national environmental law textbook of which he is co-author with Prof Meinhard Doelle.

Chris is an experienced and busy litigator.  Starting out as a criminal defence lawyer, his practice nowadays focusses mainly on serving public interest and Indigenous clients. He has been counsel on a variety of high profile cases including Northern Gateway, Trans Mountain I and II, Pacific NorthWest LNG and Teck Frontier. His firm, Tollefson Law, is co-counsel on La Rose v Canada, a national, youth-led climate case currently on reserve at the Federal Court of Appeal.

He has received various awards for his research and teaching including Nature Canada’s Conservation Partner Award for his work leading their legal team during the Northern Gateway pipeline hearings.

Throughout his career, a key theme has been public participation and access to justice.  In the early 1990s, he published the first Canadian law journal article on SLAPP suits in the Canadian Bar Review. Over the next decade or so, he was a leading advocate for and assisted in the drafting of anti-SLAPP legislation in BC and Ontario. And just last year, he represented conservationist Ezra Morse in securing dismissal of a SLAPP suit  –  a case many consider to be the first “environmental law SLAPP” to be litigated under BC’s newly-reinstated anti-SLAPP law.

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Sadie Vipond

Sadie Vipond is a 17 year old grade 12 student who lives in Calgary, Alberta, a city and region well-known for the extraction of oil and gas. She is one of 15 litigants suing the federal Canadian government for a safe climate future for her and all other youth. She has a passion for the outdoors, whether it’s skiing through the mountains, hiking Alberta’s Badlands searching for dinosaur fossils, or anything in between, that’s where Sadie feels the happiest. In November of 2021 she attended the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in order to learn more, and amplify the youth’s voice on climate. She is working toward a safe climate future for all creatures, and to try and prevent the worst effects of the climate emergency.