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Tuesday, 10 March 2020

new kids on the front lines of social justice (and their legal team)

Many decades ago, the late 1960s thru the mid-1070s and beyond, I was one of the idealistic young people on the front lines opposing the Vietnam War and the Amerikan influence on Canada. I was severely beaten by an Amerikan professor on the steps of Ryerson College, and another time I was arrested for a t-shirt proclaiming Yankee Go Home. For the t-shirt episode I was jailed for a day and had to fight this abuse of our court system all the way to the Supreme Court of Ontario. A father and daughter pair of lawyers successfully handled my case, pro bono (free). I can't even recall their names now, but I hope they've long settled into pleasant retirements. Now there's a new generation of young people on the front lines of social justice movements, and getting their backs is a new generation of lawyers willing to support their battles in our courts.   


March 6, 2020

Dear Chris,

As the events of recent weeks have made abundantly clear, the struggle for Indigenous justice and environmental justice are inextricably linked.

Since time immemorial, Indigenous Peoples have taken care of the land and water in what we now call Canada.

Today, they are some of its fiercest protectors, and — as is the case with the Wet’suwet’en land defenders — they’re often on the frontlines in the fight against destructive resource extraction projects, many of which would cause direct harm to their traditional territories and ways of life.

So when Ecojustice began working with young people on a youth-led legal challenge to the Ford government’s climate rollbacks, we knew that case needed to centre and elevate the perspectives of Indigenous youth.

Fortunately, we couldn’t be working with a more compelling and courageous set of clients.

Shaelyn Wabegijig, a 23-year-old Algonquin woman and a member of the Caribou Clan, is one of three Indigenous youth Ecojustice is representing in this landmark climate case. Shaelyn grew up in Rama First Nation in Ontario, and now lives in Nogojiwanong (Peterborough), Ont.

When I met Shaelyn, the first thing I noticed was her ability to express how deeply she cares about the planet and her culture. She’s intelligent, eloquent, and her words have power.

Recently, Shaelyn decided to put those words down on paper. She wrote an opinion piece on how the climate crisis impacts her as an Algonquin woman and a young person. The Toronto Star published it this week and you can read it here:

Shaelyn’s reflections remind me of why I became a lawyer: Because I care deeply about creating a more just and safe future, and know that in order to get there, we must put the voices and dreams of affected communities at the heart of our struggle for justice.

You’re part of this fight too.

As a member of the Ecojustice community, you’re directly supporting Ecojustice lawyers like me as we back Shaelyn and her fellow applicants in their court battle to defend every Ontarian’s Charter-protected rights to life, liberty, and security of the person. Thank you.


Danielle Gallant,
Ecojustice lawyer

P.S. Learn more about why Shaelyn is taking the Ford government to court and get to know Ecojustice’s other youth clients — Alex, Beze, Madison, Shelby, Sophia and Zoe — by reading up on Ecojustice’s #GenClimateAction case here.

Photo of Shaelyn Wabegijig by Emily Chan

Ecojustice is Canada’s largest environmental law charity.
Help us build the case for a better earth.


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