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Part 4
Biodiversity Conservation in Canada - Page 5


Goal #4: Legislation

This fourth goal of the Strategy encourages governments to maintain or develop incentives and legislation that support the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of biological resources. We briefly present some of the major laws that are relevant to conservation of biodiversity. (Environment Canada, 1997)

Endangered Species Act (ESA)

At the present time, Canada has no law to protect endangered species. Although a bill (C-65) was introduced into Parliament in 1996 which aimed to prevent extinction and extirpation of Canadian species and to promote the recovery of species in trouble, the bill did not pass. Bill C-65 generated a lot of controversy because many felt that it did not protect wildlife not found on federal lands and because of a provision that allowed Cabinet members to override the recommendations of COSEWIC in appointing species to the list. For more information about Bill C-65, we refer the reader to the webpage of the Canadian Endangered Species Coalition.

The current Liberal government has stated that it is committed to "legislation to identify, protect, and recover those species at risk within federal jurisdiction" (Liberal Plan 1997). The government is currently preparing a new draft of the Bill. (Canadian Endangered Species Coalition)

National Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk

In most parts of Canada, endangered species receive little or no legal protection.

In October 1996, Canada's federal, provincial and territorial Ministers responsible for wildlife agreed in principle to the National Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk. The Accord commits jurisdictions to developing legislation and programs to meet 14 specific criteria which together will provide basic protection for endangered species (and their habitats) across Canada.

(Canadian Endangered Species Coalition)

4 Provincial Governments have ESAs
Most of Canada's 13 governments (federal, 10 provincial, 2 territorial) have not yet fulfilled the requirements of the National Accord. The federal government has no specific legislation in place to protect endangered species and the same is true for most provincial and territorial governments.

Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick have endangered species acts (ESAs) but all four require amendment to fully meet the goals of the Accord and the needs of species at risk.

3 provinces have some species protective legislation
Saskatchewan recently passed a new Wildlife Act which allows, but does not require, fulfilment of most of the criteria of the National Accord. P.E.I. and Nova Scotia have both introduced new legislation providing the species at risk which, if passed, would serve to significantly improve the provinces' protection efforts. (Canadian Endangered Species Coalition)

The other provinces and territories and the federal government currently have no ESAs
The Yukon, Newfoundland, and the Northwest Territories have each stated the legislation for species at risk, currently lacking, will soon be developed. Alberta and B.C. have both indicated that they do not intend to pass specific legislation protecting endangered species; these two jurisdictions currently have only general wildlife legislation in place which fulfills few of the requirements of the Accord.

Nationwide, existing laws do not combine to give Canada's endangered species adequate legal protection. Debates over which level of government is responsible for protecting species at risk has stalled action. The federal government has not yet taken a leadership role in establishing a legal safety net to ensure effective protection for all endangered species across Canada.

Some provincial governments have made significant improvements in their laws in recent years. But, the gaps that remain are enormous and, as a country, Canada is failing to meet its national and international commitments to protect species at risk. (Canadian Endangered Species Coalition)

Canadian Envionmental Protection Act (CEPA)

An Act respecting pollution prevention and the protection of the environment and human health in order to contribute to sustainable development. The Act was passed in 1988 and legislation was introduced in March of 1998 to amend the CEPA.

Although the main focus of CEPA is pollution prevention and management of toxic substances some provisions of the proposed amendments may contribute to conservation of biodiversity. For example, CEPA will include provisions to protect the marine environment from sources of land-based pollution (habitat protection). (CEPA Homepage)


Migratory Birds Convention Act (MBCA)

The Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and its regulations protect migratory birds, their eggs and nests. The Act regulates hunting, prevents trafficking and commercialization, and controls the uses of migratory birds through permits.

This is the most important law protecting birds in Canada. The Migratory Birds Convention Act (MBCA) was completely updated for the first time in June, 1994. The new Act strengthens the enforcement provisions and significantly increases the penalties. The original MBCA was passed in 1917 to meet the terms of an agreement signed with the United States to protect birds such as waterfowl and shorebirds, which were being subjected to uncontrolled hunting.

Also included were "good" birds such as most songbirds, considered beneficial to humans because they eat insects and weed seeds.

However, birds deemed at that time to be vermin or harmful to humans such as hawks, owls, crows and cormorants were left under provincial jurisdiction!

Under this Act, the federal government can designate an area of importance to migratory birds as a Migratory Bird Refuge, to limit hunting and physical disturbance.


Canada Wildlife Act

In 1973 the Canada Wildlife Act was passed to authorize the establishment of refuges known as National Wildlife Areas in which migratory birds, other wildlife, and habitat could receive protection.

Migratory Bird Sanctuaries protect migratory birds against physical disturbance and hunting, which was the main threat in the early part of the century. By the 1960s and 1970s, the biggest threat to migratory birds, and other wildlife, was habitat alteration and destruction. Critical wildlife habitats, particularly wetlands, were being lost at an alarming rate. The MBCA did not have the jurisdiction to protect habitat or species other than migratory birds.

The purpose of National Wildlife Areas, as set out in the Canada Wildlife Act, is to conserve essential habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife species, especially endangered wildlife. In 1996 there were 48 NWAs protecting approximately 489 332 hectares of habitat. (Environment Canada website)

Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA)

The Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act enforces tighter controls on the illegal trade of wildlife and plants, and prohibits trafficking of endangered species.

WAPPRIITA will prohibit any commercial trade in endangered species. For less threatened species, trade will be carefully monitored and regulated through a permit system. In addition to contributing to the conservation of Canadian and foreign wild species, it is designed to protect Canadian ecosystems from the introduction of undesirable species that could harm Canadian species.

WAPPRIITA consolidates existing federal trade controls. No new or additional permits are required for international or interprovincial trade in wild specimens.

Under WAPPRIITA, a person can be prosecuted anywhere in Canada for contravening a provincial law, as well as for violating foreign legislation. In addition, all wild animal and plant species are protected, whereas previously, only game species and species listed in CITES were protected. The legislation provides for moreeffective and efficient enforcement and sets higher penalties for failure to comply with the regulations. (WAPPRIITA homepage)


Canada Oceans Act

Canada Oceans Act was passed by Parliament in January, 1997. The Act gives Canada authority over an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covering almost five million square kilometers of the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic Oceans. Canada's jurisdiction will cover economic activity, scientific research and protection and preservation of the marine environment. (DFO communique, Sept 25, 1995)

Implications for biodiversity conservation: The act outlines a new ecosystems-based approach to marine resource management called the Oceans Management Strategy (OMS) which consolidates federal management of oceans and coasts. Under the Oceans Act, Marine Protected Areas may be created for the purpose of conserving living marine resources that are of interest economically, threatened or endangered and that are areas of high or unique biodiversity. (Sierra Club of Canada Rio Report Card 97; Environment Canada, 1998)


Goal #3:



Goal #5: