Defending Your Rights

By Sadie Vipond

My name is Sadie Vipond, I am 14 years old, and I am part of a lawsuit against the federal government. All 15 of the youth involved in La Rose et al. v. Her Majesty the Queen are being affected by the climate crisis. We know our government needs to do more and that it’s violating our rights. Section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms reads: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”

When the 2013 floods came to Calgary I was evacuated, since my house was too close for comfort to the Bow River. My grandmother woke me up in the middle of the night and told me we had to leave; I was scared that our house and our city would be damaged. We stayed at a friend’s house on higher ground and school was cancelled for the rest of the year. Our house wasn’t damaged, but the city certainly was.

Nowadays I prefer to bike to school. Unfortunately, the smoke from last year’s forest fires meant I was unable to do so. The route to my school has a couple of hills that are sometimes difficult to get up. I couldn’t overexert myself and breathe in too much smoke. Two years ago my summer camp had to suspend activities because of the smoke, and my sister had to evacuate her camp (a different one than mine) because a fire had gotten too close.

When I was in Jasper last summer, I saw whole mountainsides covered in dead trees from pine beetles, and I continue to see them at my ski hill.

The climate crisis is affecting us today. We’re being deprived of our right to life, liberty and personal security.

I know that all of these things—disasters forcing me from my home, dirty air, changing landscapes—haven’t been caused solely by the climate crisis, but their severity and regularity have increased because of it. I’m worried they’ll happen even more often, with greater force. Lots of people think the climate crisis is something that will happen in the future, but they’re wrong; it’s affecting us now and has been for awhile. We—youth especially—are being deprived today of our right to life, liberty and personal security.

I enjoy spending time in the outdoors skiing, biking and hiking. This makes me appreciate our world beyond the bustling cities. I want to protect natural habitats and make sure they’re there for future generations to appreciate. In thinking like this, I’m far from alone.

COVID-19 shows that in times of panic and distress the world can work together toward a common goal. I hope to see this with the climate crisis—the whole of humanity, working together. We are not the black or the white. We are not the rich or the poor. We are not women or men. We are all people, working together. We are Earth.

I want to protect my future and everyone else’s. But I can’t vote, which is the main way people in our society make change happen. Joining a lawsuit is an option for people under 18, which includes most of our 15 litigants. We’re asking for a science-based climate recovery plan in line with what the best evidence says is needed. This is the only such lawsuit against our federal government, but it’s part of a global youth climate movement that includes many cases around the world.

Some people aren’t happy about the changes I and many other Canadians want. But good research says transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy will not only help us avert crisis but benefit our economy.

The government needs to treat the changing climate like a crisis. They can’t see our forests and our parks and our natural, beautiful places as just sources of short-term profit; they are our sources of joy, and they should be for the long term. That’s why I’m taking action today: to ask our government to take even greater action on behalf of all Canadians.

Sadie Vipond is a youth climate activist. She lives in Calgary.

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