1995 Scientists' Letter


November 1, 1995

Honourable Sheila Copps
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Environment
Room 509 S, Centre Block
House of Commons
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6

Dear Minister:

The federal government of Canada has tabled its proposal to protect endangered species. Many deficiencies in the draft bill must however be addressed to make it an effective law. First and foremost, despite widespread agreement among biologists that habitat loss is the leading cause of extinction, the proposed legislation contains no legal provisions for protection of the habitats of endangered species. For the law to have any real impact on endangered species conservation, the habitats of endangered species must be clearly defined and provided protection. Second, while the proposal mandates that federal agencies draw up response statements and recovery plans for endangered species, it does not obligate any agency to put real conservation measures into effect, or require that projects be evaluated in terms of their potential impact on threatened and endangered species. Without a strict time frame for action, many species are likely to become extinct as politicians argue over the details of each case. Third, the legistlation is reactive rather than pro-active. There are no proposed mechanisms for protecting a species until it reaches the endangered status, at which time its recovery is likely to be more difficult and expensive to achieve. Threat abatement plans for the many threatened but not yet endangered species must also be included in the legislation. Fourth, the legislation applies only to federally-controlled lands and waters, which account for only a small fraction of Canada's land surface. Because threatened and endangered species do not fit into political boundaries, the new law must lead the way to protecting wildlife and their habitats in both provincial and federal lands and waters.

Canada's rich biological heritage is at risk. The adoption of a strong endangered species law could represent an important step towards preserving biological diversity. Yet the proposed law provides nothing more than superficial protection. It may therefore hinder real efforts to preserve biological diversity in canada by promulgating the notion that Canada has now done something to address the problem when in fact it has not. We urge the federal government to expand the endangered species legislation by addressing the problems that we have outlined above. Provincial governments must quickly follow in suit.



Response of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment, Sheila Copps

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