This article addresses the jurisdiction of Canadian courts over transboundary pollution. It argues that a tort lawsuit brought by foreign victims of climate change against local greenhouse gas emitters could overcome jurisdictional obstacles, notably the local action rule, and proceed in Canada. The local action rule provides that Canadian courts have no jurisdiction to hear a claim involving foreign land, even when the claim lies solely in tort. It is thought to be a significant jurisdictional obstacle in transboundary environmental disputes involving foreign land. This assumption is misleading. A growing corpus of soft law instruments supports the notion of equal access to the courts of the state of origin for all victims of transboundary pollution. The courts of Canadian provinces have jurisdiction over pollution originating in the province, and the case law is more divided than generally assumed over the effect of the local action rule in tort litigation. The conclusions of this article have important implications for transboundary environmental disputes in Canada and other top greenhouse gas-producing countries. They also highlight a modest but potentially meaningful role for private international law in our global response to climate change.
Guillaume Laganière, Local polluters, foreign land and climate change: the myth of the local action rule in Canada, Journal of Private International Law, 16:3, 390-422 (2020). DOI: 10.1080/17441048.2020.1855735. Published online: 12 January 2021.