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Why a strong federal endangered species law matters

A federal Species-at-Risk Act ensures the highest standard of care for endangered species across the country, regardless of which province or territory an at-risk plant or animal calls home.

Currently, most, but not all, Canadian provinces and territories have an endangered species law, but the strength of these laws and how effectively they protect species and their habitats varies across the country. As we all know, wildlife don’t recognize provincial boundaries, so it is important to have a consistent standard that applies across the country with strong measures to protect at risk plants and animals, and the habitat they need to thrive. It doesn’t make sense for protection measures to change when a caribou or other at-risk animal crosses a provincial border. 

A strong federal law also acts as a safety net to fill gaps and shortcomings in provincial or territorial endangered species laws, by requiring a consistent standard that must be applied across the country.

A history of Canada’s endangered species law

The federal Species-at-Risk Act (SARA) was passed in 2002 as a means to prevent the extinction of Canada’s most vulnerable plants and animals. The Act was passed ten years after Canada signed the Convention on Biological Diversity, an international convention that commits countries to protect endangered species.

Right now in Canada there are over 650 species listed as “at risk” of extinction. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), an independent, scientific body, identifies and recommends to government which species should be listed.

Our concerns:

As Canadians, we care about our wildlife, and want to ensure they’re protected.  Intuitively, we know we need to identify and protect habitat in order to ensure the long term viability of wildlife species (translation: wildlife need habitat to survive!). 

SARA recently underwent some changes with the passing of Bill C-38, the 2012 Federal Budget Implementation Bill. The federal government has signaled its intent to further review SARA, and we may see changes to the Act as early as this fall. CPAWS believes we need a stronger, not weaker, federal Act to protect endangered wildlife. We’ll be watching this review process carefully because we’re very worried that changes will water down SARA, and the protections it offers Canada’s endangered species.

If protecting endangered species is important to you, please take a moment to let the federal environment minister know. You can also talk to your local Member of Parliament about it - talk to him or her in your riding, at a summer BBQ or pancake breakfast. It’s important for MPs to hear directly from Canadians about why they want a strong federal endangered species law.

Over the summer and fall we’ll be posting a series of blogs on endangered species in Canada. We’ll feature the real “faces” of SARA, introducing some of the (many) species that are at risk of extinction in Canada if. Some of the species we plan to feature include, grizzly bear, leatherback turtle, western prairie fringed orchid, little brown bat, narwhal, to name a few. If there is a particular species at risk that you would like to see featured, please let us know in the comment section and we’ll do our best to include it.