Update on Endangered Species Protection in Canada

Laura Telford
Canadian Nature Federation,1 Nicholas Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1N 7B7; ltelford@cnf.ca

The Canadian government introduced the Species at Risk Act in April 2000. In its current form, the legislation is weak and will do little to halt the slide towards extinction of many Canadian species. Unlike the U.S. Endangered Species Act, which contains clear prohibitions against the harming of species and their habitats wherever they reside, many of the provisions in the Canadian Act rely on the discretion of politicians to act in a manner which is beneficial to species at risk. The legislation contains no automatic protection for the habitat of species at risk (loss of habitat is the primary cause of species endangerment) and the scope of the prohibitions against harming of individual species at risk and their residences is limited to federal lands (excluding the three northern territories which are under federal authority), some migratory birds, and some aquatic species. Species that migrate across the Canada-U.S. border are not specifically ad-dressed
by the legislation. Final decisions about which species will be listed, and therefore
receive legal protection, will be left up to politicians, not scientists. The current Act does not fulfill all of Canada's commitments under international and national agreements, nor does it live up to the government's own promises or meet the expectations of the majority of Canadians who believe that the federal government should take the lead role in protecting species at risk.