A Winnipeg climate activist is among the group of Canadian teenagers who has appealed to the country’s highest court to consider how the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion threatens their right to life.
Seventeen-year-old Lena Andres, alongside three others, helped raise more than $15,000 to hire lawyers to bring their case to the Supreme Court of Canada — the latest of a number of youth-led anti-pipeline legal challenges.
Under the Youth Stop TMX banner, the group has applied for leave to present the court with its argument the federal government has not evaluated the pipeline’s contribution to climate change and its subsequent threat to the rights of Canadian youth.
"The people who made the decision to buy the pipeline aren’t the ones who are going to be feeling the consequences of it and that’s not fair, that’s unconstitutional," Andres said Tuesday.
"This pipeline disproportionately affects youth."
The teens, who range in age from 13 to 18 and live as far east as Hamilton and as far west as Victoria, cite their constitutional rights to life, liberty, security and equal protection as the legal basis for the challenge.
They first launched an appeal to the pipeline in the summer, but it was one of six related to climate change, environmental concerns and Indigenous rights dismissed by the Federal Court of Appeal in September.
One of three lawyers representing the group, Patrick Canning, said his clients want the court to force the government to review how the pipeline’s approval will affect their rights, and to justify it in terms of how it fits within Canada’s reduction commitments.
Given how often the court approves leaves, Canning said there’s about an eight per cent chance it will accept theirs.
"A pipeline project that is going to render it impossible to meet our climate targets when we’re in a climate emergency — I think it’s definitely an issue of public importance, but it’s up to the court to decide what they want to hear," he said.
The government has 30 days to file a reply to the request. Youth Stop TMX will then have the opportunity to file a final reply before the court makes its decision as to whether or not it will invite the four youth to present their argument.
If leave is granted, Andres said the youth will need to crowdfund a total of approximately $40,000.
In the meantime, Manitoba Youth for Climate Action continues to strike each Friday. Andres said the team is planning another national day of action — following the Global Climate Strike — at the end of the month.
Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.