Ontario review of Endangered Species Act could put vulnerable species at even greater
Toronto, Feb. 14, 2019 - The Government of Ontario's review of the 2007 Endangered
Species Act could put the province's most vulnerable animals and plants at even
greater risk by removing barriers to the harmful activities that are driving wildlife
decline, say the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice, Earthroots, Environmental
Defence, Greenpeace Canada, Ontario Nature and World Wildlife Fund Canada.
Most of Ontario's 243 species at risk are listed because of habitat loss and disturbance,
caused in large part by a lack of limits on industrial activity and development.
Due to a regulation passed in 2013, many industries are exempt from current ESA
restrictions, including forestry, which for the most part has not had to comply
with ESA prohibitions.
On the 10-year anniversary of the ESA, the provincial government posted a discussion
paper on the Environmental Registry of Ontario and launched a 45-day consultation
period. Although the paper offers the goal of enabling "positive outcomes" for species
at risk, it focuses on increasing "efficiencies for business."
The government says it wants to reduce barriers to economic development. But an
overemphasis on creating greater efficiencies for industry could subject the province's
at-risk species — and our natural heritage — to even greater threats. Further weakening
of the act could push many of these species over the brink.
Ontarians have until March 4, 2019, to provide input into the government's ESA review.
Representatives from the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecojustice, Earthroots, Environmental
Defence, Greenpeace Canada, Ontario Nature and World Wildlife Fund Canada released
the following statements:
Rachel Plotkin, Ontario Science Campaigns Manager, David Suzuki Foundation
"The Endangered Species Act exempts most industrial activities from prohibitions,
including against habitat destruction. Striving for greater balance is going backwards.
We need to set our sights on greater limits for industrial activity to reverse habitat
loss and degradation, which is the primary cause of wildlife decline here and around
the world. We need Ontarians to speak up for species protection, just like they
did for the Greenbelt. We need to show the government for the people that our people
Gord Miller, Chair, Earthroots and Former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario
"The only problem with the Endangered Species Act is the complete failure of the
Ontario government to step up to its responsibilities and administer it properly.
Proponents complain that it takes too long to get a permit to contravene the law's
prohibition to harm species or damage their habitat but the ministry has never denied
an ESA permit to any applicant in any situation."
Sue Tan, Lawyer, Ecojustice
"In the decade since the Ontario ESA has been in existence, industry interests have
been prioritized far above species protections. For example, the forestry industry
has been given broad exemptions for the very activities that most often harm at-risk
species. The primary intent of the ESA is to protect species, and this is likely
incompatible with the government's vision of streamlining the act to create 'efficiencies'
for business. Environmental organizations are concerned that the government's review
will further erode the act's protection for species at risk. The announcement of
this review came only a month after the government axed its environment watchdog,
and is one of a series of anti-environment moves."
Tim Gray, Executive Director, Environmental Defence
"People in Ontario expect our government to protect endangered species. It is also
clear that people and industry have both thrived when the needs of endangered species
are addressed. Going backward will be bad for species, people and our economy."
Reykia Fick, Forest Campaigner, Greenpeace Canada
"With wildlife populations crashing and species pushed to the brink around the world,
it is incredibly reckless for the government to propose weakening endangered species
protections here in Ontario. This would put our vulnerable plants and animals at
even greater risk. Ontarians cannot allow this to happen."
Caroline Schultz, Executive Director, Ontario Nature
"The options put forward by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks
would undermine the very cornerstones of the law: science-based listing of species
at risk (including Indigenous traditional knowledge) and mandatory protection of
listed species and their habitats. This is yet another in a long line of examples
of the government's short-sighted fixation on environmental deregulation that is
threatening our biological riches to line the pockets of the corporate elite. The
proposed options would make it easier to bulldoze and pave over the habitats of
endangered species. Environmental deregulation gone amuck threatens our values,
our prosperity and the fate of species at risk."
James Snider, VP science, research and innovation, WWF-Canada
"Since the Endangered Species Act was introduced, pressures to habitats have continued
to mount and the species at risk list has continued to grow. Our current legislation
is not doing enough to protect species. The exemptions introduced in 2013 made it
too easy to harm habitat. We need to improve protections for species at risk, not
water them down further."
The David Suzuki Foundation (davidsuzuki.org) is a leading Canadian environmental
non-profit organization, collaborating with all people in Canada, including government
and business, to conserve the environment and find solutions that will create a
sustainable Canada through evidence-based research, public engagement and policy
work. The Foundation operates in English and French, with offices in Vancouver,
Toronto and Montreal.
Earthroots is a grassroots conservation organization dedicated to the protection
of Ontario's wilderness, wildlife and watersheds. Combining grassroots campaign
strategies with effective research and educational programs, we empower thousands
of Canadians each year to advocate for better environmental protection and achieve
Ecojustice, Canada's largest environmental law charity, goes to court and uses the
power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy
environment for all.
Environmental Defence is Canada's most effective environmental action organization.
We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a
greener, healthier and prosperous life for all.
Greenpeace exists because this fragile earth deserves a voice. It needs solutions.
It needs change. It needs action. Around the globe, we are standing up for our communities,
and we are holding governments and corporations accountable. Whether on the streets
or at the ballot box, we hold the real power when we work together.
Ontario Nature protects wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education
and public engagement. It connects thousands of individuals and communities with
nature through 150 conservation groups, and 30,000 members and supporters across
the province. For more information, visit ontarionature.org.
World Wildlife Fund Canada creates solutions to the environmental challenges that
matter most for Canadians. We work in places that are unique and ecologically important,
so that nature, wildlife and people thrive together. Because we are all wildlife.
For more information, visit