Fire / Feu



Bataille canadienne pour des
lois sur les espèces en péril

Étonnant de constater que 75 % des espèces en péril sur la liste nationale du Canada sont là à cause de la destruction ou de la dégradation de leurs habitats.

L'auteure Laura Telford déclare: "Le Canada n'a pas encore promulgué une loi fédérale qui protège les espèces en péril; les provinces et les territoires ont un ensemble disparate de lois qui vont d'adéquates à non existentes, ce qui laisse des écarts assez larges pour que des espèces en péril puissent y disparaître." Elle continue avec des solutions à ce problème et elle suggère des moyens pour combattre le problème des espèces en péril que nous avons au Canada.































"In the provinces, strong opposition from the
natural resource sector has made endangered
species legislation a political hot potato because of
the perception that such laws would shut down


Canada’s Struggle for
Endangered Species Legislation

Laura Telford
Canadian Nature Federation
December 2000


he Problem ...

Increasingly, our furry, feathered, and scaly friends are finding themselves homeless. More than 75% of the species on Canada’s national list of endangered species are there because of destruction or degradation of their habitats.


======= Eastern
Prickly Pear Cactus

This is shocking in a country as seemingly vast and wild as Canada. Even more appalling is the fact that the denizens of Canadian waters, forests and grasslands, which are under assault from pollution, urbanization, logging, farming, and mining, have few legal remedies.


In 1992, Canada was the first western nation to ratify the international Convention on Biological Diversity. The convention required signatories to pass legislation to protect endangered species and their habitats. Four years later, in 1996, the federal government and all of Canada’s provinces and territories agreed in principal to the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. This agreement committed each jurisdiction to establish in law a set of practices to protect species in peril.

Species at Risk Fall Through
Gaps in Legal Network...

Despite two recent attempts, Canada has yet to pass a federal law that protects species at risk, and the provinces and territories have a patchwork of laws, ranging from adequate to nonexistent, which leave gaps wide enough for many species at risk to fall through. For example, 70% of all of Canada’s bird and mammal species live in British Columbia, but this province has no stand-alone endangered species legislation. With over 3,150 species of plants, BC also has the richest flora in the country. Yet, because plants are not covered under the BC Wildlife Act or by the Forest Practices Code, they are left to the mercy of real estate developers, forest companies, and recreationalists. Other provinces have legislation in place, but these laws fall short of the commitments of the Accord. New Brunswick, for example, has one of the best Endangered Species Acts in the country (behind Nova Scotia and Manitoba), but this legislation does not meet the provisions of the Accord in two key respects: listing of species at risk is a political, not scientific, decision; and plans to recover a listed species are not required under the law.

(photo: Rare Plant Station site)



A perennial herb found only in 
New Brunswick
and Maine


Such legal deficiencies can have serious consequences for species. For example, Furbish’s Lousewort, a perennial herb found only in New Brunswick and Maine, is in immediate peril in New Brunswick because recovery plans, which are the prelude to any recovery actions, are not required under New Brunswick’s Endangered Species Act. There are just three known sites for this plant in New Brunswick and two of these populations are at imminent risk. Without a comprehensive recovery strategy, it is unlikely that the factors causing the decline of this plant will be addressed.

If all jurisdictions have agreed to develop a comprehensive set of laws to protect endangered species, why haven’t they? There are several possible explanations. The first relates to the nature of our confederation. When powers were divided up between federal and provincial governments, much of the control over natural resources was devolved to the provinces. The federal government retained control over its lands, which include national parks, military sites, and some agricultural lands, inland fisheries and the seacoast, and "Indian lands" (this includes the three northern territories). The federal government also has the power to implement Imperial treaties such as the Migratory Birds Convention Act (MCBA) signed by England (on behalf of Canada) and the United States. The provinces retained control over provincial public lands and their non-renewable natural resources, and forestry resources. Because authority over natural resources is jealously guarded by the provinces, and because perceived "interference" by the federal government in provincial turf would further destabilize sensitive federal-
provincial relations, it is difficult, if not impossible, for the federal government to pass endangered species legislation that applies to species outside of its core jurisdiction. For example, the recently-failed federal Species at Risk Act included a habitat safety net provision that allowed the federal government to step into provincial jurisdiction to rescue the habitat of a listed species when a province failed to act. Several provinces felt that this would be a stretch of existing federal authority.

During discussions of the Species at Risk Act, the power struggle was not restricted to federal and provincial governments. Jurisdictional wrangling also occurred between federal government departments. In fact, the battle between departments to maintain control over their own turf was thought to be a major factor in the weak "compromise" bill that was introduced. Departments such as Fisheries and Oceans, Parks, Indian and Northern Affairs and others were unwilling to cede their authority to a single department to administer the Act.Whooping cranes

In the provinces, strong opposition from the natural resource sector has made endangered species legislation a political hot potato because of the perception that such laws would shut down industry. In provinces like British Columbia, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador that are heavily reliant on natural resources, governments have not been strong enough to resist this powerful lobby.


The Solution ...

Legal gaps could be eliminated quite simply if all Canadian jurisdictions lived up to their commitments under the Accord. However, while a comprehensive network of laws would go a long way towards protecting species already at risk, it would not prevent species from becoming at risk in the first place because such laws do not kick in until a species is listed.

========     Burrowing Owl     ========     

(photo: Greg Lasley)

We tend to treat our own problems in a similar manner. Instead of tackling known health risks such as smoking, we wait until people become ill and require hospitalization. Similarly, we wait until endangered species are in the emergency room before we treat them. For any species, this is an expensive and ineffective solution. Most biologists believe that it would be more effective to deal with our disappearing species on an ecosystem level so that we can deal with multiple species, their habitats, and the threats to these habitats at the same time.

We also need to deal with the competing demands on habitat. Meaningful progress in protecting habitat can only be made through collaboration with the stakeholders who make their livings from the grasslands, forests and waters of this country. Many promising stewardship initiatives have been developed through collaborations between industry, provincial and federal government, aboriginal and non-government organizations. Federal and provincial governments could facilitate this process enormously through leadership and financial support.