Mapping human rights-based climate litigation in Canada

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Journal of Human Rights and the Environment

Journal Abbreviation

J. Hum. Rts. & Env't.


In line with global trends, there has been an increase in human rights-based climate litigation brought in Canadian courts in recent years. Some litigants invoke human rights as found in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to push federal and provincial governments to take seriously the implementation of their climate obligations. Other litigants invoke procedural environmental human rights to engage in free speech and peaceful protest in the face of government action supporting fossil fuel consumption or expansion. At the same time, the Supreme Court of Canada has recognized that Canadian courts could develop civil remedies for corporate violations of customary international law, opening the door to future human rights-based corporate climate accountability litigation. Due to the nascent stage of climate litigation in Canada, this paper maps a broad variety of emerging cases into three interrelated sections: substantive, procedural and corporate accountability litigation. It also highlights emerging and potential future trends, such as the high level of youth and Indigenous plaintiffs. The paper aims to provide a critical overview of emerging Canadian developments in human rights-based climate litigation brought against the state, and reflects on potential strategies for future litigation, including against transnational corporate actors.

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