Haana Edenshaw speaks at the Vancouver climate rally, accompanied by her fellow plaintiffs and Greta Thunberg. (Robin Loznak photo)

Haana Edenshaw speaks at the Vancouver climate rally, accompanied by her fellow plaintiffs and Greta Thunberg. (Robin Loznak photo)

Haida Gwaii youth joins federal climate lawsuit

Haana Edenshaw takes a leading role in the fight for a safe and clean future

A group of young people from across the country are suing the Canadian government for not acting on climate change, and there is representation from Haida Gwaii in the group.

In a statement issued last Wednesday morning by the David Suzuki Foundation, the foundation said the 15 youths have each suffered “specific, individualized injuries due to climate change.”

The lawsuit, which was filed last Friday in federal court, will allege Ottawa is violating their rights to life, liberty and security of person under section seven of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

One of the plaintiffs grew up in Masset on the Haida Gwaii islands, Haana Edenshaw. Growing up in an area so steeped in natural beauty, but also constantly under threat from climate change and human activity, gave Edenshaw perspective from a young age on the importance of protecting the land.

“I’ve always grown up with the reality of climate change and protesting ecological destruction. Joining my family and the Haida nation as stewards and protectors of our traditional land from logging, trophy hunting, those kind of things,” Edenshaw said. “I’ve always been really environmentally aware, and tried to make all the changes I could individually in my own consumer habits.”

Youth climate activist Haana Edenshaw of Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, walks to a rally in downtown Vancouver on Friday. Edenshaw is one of 15 plaintiffs who launched a lawsuit against the Canadian government. (Robin Loznak photo)

At home in Masset, Edenshaw started an ecological club to work on issues of climate activism and environmental protection. She also organized a climate strike day earlier in the year. Recently, she took her voice to the international stage when she was chosen to be a speaker at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, making recommendations to the assembled group of rapporteurs that nations should adhere to.

“It was really interesting to get to know so many people involved in this kind of thing,” Edenshaw said of her international experience. “There’s so many amazing people working on the policy, and it was great to be able to get my voice heard.”

Naturally, when Edenshaw heard that a lawsuit was mounting against the Canadian government on the issue of climate change, she knew she had to be a part of it.

“When I heard about the lawsuit I was immediately interested and looking forward to try and work with it,” Edenshaw explained. “

READ MORE: Forest fire inspires Smithers youth to join climate lawsuit

The youth will claim the government’s actions violate section 15, which deals with equality, as they say young people are disproportionately affected by climate change.

They will be represented by Arvay Finlay LLP and Tollefson Law Corporation, and partner with the Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation and the David Suzuki Foundation.

“The lawsuit calls on Canada to cease its conduct that is violating the youth’s Charter and public trust rights and prepare and implement a plan that reduces Canada’s GHG emissions in a manner consistent with what best available science indicates is needed for the federal government to protect young Canadians, do its fair share to stabilize the climate system, and avert the catastrophic consequences of climate change,” the foundation said in a statement.

Haana Edenshaw has been involved with environmental activism her whole life, and was determined to help when she heard about the lawsuit. (Robin Loznak photo)

Edenshaw makes clear that there is no financial gain being pursued via this legal action. “The purpose of the lawsuit is not to get money or anything for ourselves. If the lawsuit succeeds the court will order the federal government to develop and implement a science based climate recovery plan, based on the best available science made to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, and increase carbon sequestration with what scientists say is needed to stabilize the climate system,” she said.

On Friday the youth took part in a march and rally at the northern steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery Friday, coinciding with Greta Thunberg’s arrival and climate strike in the city. All 15 plaintiffs were present at the rally, where they were able to make their case heard.

“The rally was incredible. It was amazing to be able to have my voice heard, and it was amazing to meet Great Thunberg. She’s such an inspirational climate activist, and such a powerful speaker, it was really an honour to be up on that stage with her,” Edenshaw said of the event.

The climate activists were joined on stage by David Suzuki and Severn Cullis-Suzuki, who herself delivered an impassioned speech as a youth to the Rio Summit on climate change in 1992 when she was 12. Edenshaw explained that not only did the rally bring awareness to their cause, but also reinforced her spirit to see all of the support. Approximately 15,000 people came out to witness the rally.

(Robin Loznak photo)

“It was really inspiring to know that there are people out there who are working really hard too. It made me feel a lot better,” Edenshaw explained.

“Seeing 15,000 people there supporting us, and seeing all these incredible people working so hard to do their part to avert the climate crisis has really made me feel a lot better about our case. It was amazing to meet my 14 co-plaintiffs, who are really inspirational people and who are working so hard all over Canada to help the environment. I feel like the government of Canada will see all our support.”

READ MORE: Premier’s Award for Haida athlete

Edenshaw and the other activists know it will be a long road ahead in court, but says they are ready for the challenge. She is occasionally discouraged by those who insist climate change is not real, but says there is enough support to drown out the negativity.

“That would affect anyone, seeing that kind of backlash,” Edenshaw says of some of the comments that surround the issue. “But knowing we have such strong support, and there’s also a community of co-plaintiffs who are also going through this sort of thing, it’s really good to have that support network. I can’t understand the disbelief, but we just try and tune it out.”

“I have to do everything I can to prevent this and get Canada to act, because the government has a responsibility to make sure that this country is safe for everyone living in it,” Edenshaw concluded.


Alex Kurial | Journalist
Alex Kurial 
Send Alex email
Like the Haida Gwaii Observer on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter

Climate changeClimate strikesGlobal climate actionUN climate talks

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

Just Posted

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

Houston physician Dr. Stefanie Steel receives her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine Jan. 19 from RN nurse manager Cindy Cockle. (Northern Health photo)
COVID-19 vaccinations get underway in Smithers

First doses are being administered to long-term care residents and priority health care staff

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

Fentanyl was among the drugs seized by New Hazelton RCMP in a big bust in early January. (File photo)
New Hazelton RCMP arrest five, seize drugs and large amount of cash

Police find suspected heroin, fentanyl and crystal meth during early January drug bust

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

Most Read