Toronto man tries criminal charges for Ghiz over missed emission targets

Teresa Wright twright@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on December 1, 2015

Former premier Robert Ghiz pictured in Saint John, N.B. on May 26, 2014.

©THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

A Toronto musician believes former P.E.I. premier Robert Ghiz should be held criminally responsible for deaths and bodily harm caused by climate change.

Louis Vautour attempted to lay a charge in P.E.I. provincial court Monday in a rare private prosecution proceeding.

This means the charge is not laid by police or by the Crown, but by a private individual.

Provincial Court Judge John Douglas did not accept the charge Monday, citing procedural concerns.

But he did say Vautour could make some changes, resubmit the information and try again.

Vautour’s allegations revolve around the argument that by not meeting emissions targets agreed to in the Kyoto and Copenhagen climate change accords, the premier engaged in criminal negligence causing death and bodily harm.

He has been attempting to file similar private prosecution charges against premiers across the country, including British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick and P.E.I.

So far he has been unsuccessful in laying a single charge.

He remains undeterred, however, and plans to file similar charges in Quebec and Ontario and in Ottawa against former prime minister Stephen Harper as well as former federal environment ministers Peter Kent and Leona Aglukkaq.

“Criminal negligence is when you fail to do your legal duty, showing wanton or reckless disregard for the lives and safety of other people,” Vautour told reporters.

“It’s their duty to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. They’re the only people with the legal authority to do that.”

He argues deaths caused by such things as heat stroke or health complications aggravated by climate such as asthma could be linked back to inaction on emissions reductions.

“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is essential to human health,” he said.

“Environmental activism isn’t having an effect because they haven’t reduced greenhouse gas emissions. So we need to take them to court, we need to hold them to account for their actions and their legal duty.”

In the courtroom Monday, the judge did question whether this was indeed a criminal matter or one better argued in the court of public opinion.

Vautour remains firm it is a matter for the courts.

He has resubmitted his request to lay a charge and, if accepted, will return to the province to argue it in a process hearing.

No charges have been laid against Ghiz.

Twright@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa