Fighting for species protection in Ontario

We’ve teamed up with Animal Justice to take Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry to court over inaction on species protection.

From mammals to fish, birds and plants, approximately 40 species at risk have been left in the lurch because the Minister has unlawfully delayed issuing their recovery strategies.

The Ontario Endangered Species Act (ESA) is arguably the most progressive endangered species law in North America, but it is not being implemented effectively.

In its preamble, the ESA recognizes the ecological, social, economic, cultural and intrinsic value of biological diversity and calls on the present generation of Ontarians to protect species at risk for future generations. And a primary purpose of the ESA is to protect at-risk species and their habitat, and promote species recovery.

The Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario is the independent committee made up of scientific experts and Indigenous knowledge keepers tasked with assessing the status of species in Ontario and, when necessary, classifying species according to five categories: extinct, extirpated, endangered, threatened, or special concern.

Under section 11 of the Act, the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry is required to issue recovery strategies within one year from the time of listing for endangered species, and within two years for threatened species. An endangered listing means that the species lives in the wild in Ontario but “is facing imminent extinction or extirpation”; a threatened species is “likely to become endangered” if protective actions are not taken.

The ESA’s mandatory deadlines for recovery strategies are tempered by flexibility provisions which allow the government to take extensions under specific circumstances, including a wish to cooperate with another jurisdiction (usually the federal government) on developing its recovery strategy. However, an Ecojustice review revealed that the Minister has exploited ESA’s flexibility provisions by unlawfully delaying recovery strategies.

Why is Ecojustice Involved?

Recovery strategies are paramount to species protection because they help guide government initiatives to ensure that healthy numbers of each species return to Ontario. But as of August 2017, the Minister has unlawfully delayed recovery strategies for 37 species — including the endangered mountain lion and a threatened fish known as the black redhorse, which were both listed prior to the current ESA becoming law in 2008.

In many cases, such as the mountain lion, the Minister has simply, and unlawfully, allowed deadlines to pass by — effectively leaving the vulnerable species with minimal legal protections indefinitely. In other instances, the Minister has taken extensions to cooperate with the federal government — even when the latter has unlawfully violated its own mandated deadlines under the federal Species at Risk Act, or expressly refused to protect a species, as it did with the black redhorse in 2007.

Our legal action is aimed at ensuring the Minister fulfills her duty to prepare recovery strategies and halts further violations of the ESA’s mandated timelines.

What would a win mean?

If successful, this case would require the Ontario government to complete recovery strategies for the 37 listed species left in peril by the Minister’s inaction.

A strength of the ESA is that it lays out clear timelines for developing recovery strategies. We want these timelines met going forward. The Ontario government must protect threatened and endangered species because biological diversity is vital to the wellbeing of people and the planet — and because the law says so.

Case Categories
Case Status
In Progress

Fighting for species protection in Ontario

In Progress

Ensuring Volkswagen pays for its environmental crime

In Progress

We’re protecting the Gulf of St. Lawrence from oil drilling

In Progress

Protecting wild salmon from piscine reovirus

Closed

Standing up for Indigenous rights and the environment

Victory

Challenging TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline

Victory

Fighting for thorough environmental assessments for oil-by-rail projects

In Progress

Protecting pollinators from neonicotinoids

Victory

Fighting to advance an honest conversation about climate change

Victory

Protecting Lancaster Sound

In Progress

Seeking justice for contaminated Thane Smelter site

Victory

Ensuring effective oversight of aquaculture vets

Victory

Protecting the Great Lakes

In Progress

Species at Risk Act Implementation

In Progress

Waterproof: Monitoring Canada’s Drinking Water

In Progress

Right to a Healthy Environment

Victory

Reducing Manitobans’ exposure to toxic pesticides

Victory

Protecting Canada’s national parks from commercial encroachment

In Progress

Protecting the Sage-Grouse

Closed

Demanding strong nuclear safety assessments

Closed

Defending the rights of Chemical Valley residents – Charter Challenge

Closed

Defending Ontario’s at-risk species

In Progress

Putting the brakes on the expansion of coal exports from Canadian ports

In Progress

Challenging Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion

Victory

Challenging Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline

In Progress

Defending Fish Lake from the Prosperity Mine

Victory

Fighting for Government Oversight of Fish Farms

Closed

Challenging flawed environmental reviews for new nuclear reactors in Ontario

In Progress

Protecting drinking water in Harrietsfield, Nova Scotia

Closed

Protecting Canada’s Arctic from oil spills

In Progress

Bees and Neonicotinoid Pesticides – Notice of Objection

Victory

Fighting discrimination based on environmental sensitivities

Victory

Defending species at risk from the Northern Gateway pipeline

Victory

Fighting for emergency protections for the greater sage-grouse

Closed

Challenging the safety of genetically modified salmon

Victory

Protecting migratory birds from collisions with office buildings

In Progress

Protecting Canadians from harmful pesticides banned in other countries

Victory

Challenging Cadillac Fairview to reduce bird-building collisions

Victory

Protecting habitat for British Columbia’s killer whales

Victory

Nooksack dace lawsuit win protects habitat critical to endangered species

Victory

Nestle bows to pressure to limit Ontario water withdrawals

Victory

Improving access to justice in public interest cases

In Progress

Modernizing B.C.’s Water Act

Victory

Ontario’s Water Opportunities and Conservation Act

Victory

Ensuring that polluters pay after ducks die at tailing ponds

Victory

Exposing the toxic legacy of Canada’s mining and tar sands projects

Victory

Doyle Island salmon farm

Victory

Lilydale chicken processing plant

Victory

Ending narrow environmental assessment of large industrial projects

Victory

Protecting B.C.’s Fraser Valley from Sumas 2 power plant

Victory

Saving Burnaby Lake’s turtles

Victory

Ottawa natural gardens

Victory

Challenging the federal government to protect sage-grouse habitat

Victory

Landmark Supreme Court victory for uOttawa-Ecojustice Clinic

Victory

Victory trashes Lafarge’s tire burning plan

Victory

Piping Plover Lawsuit

Victory

Challenging the Kearl tar sands project in Alberta

Victory

Ontario Parks Act

Victory

Holding Imperial Oil to account, establishing polluter-pays

Victory

Federal Species at Risk Act introduced

Victory

Upholding municipalities’ right to restrict use of pesticides

Victory

Stopping logging in endangered spotted owl habitat

Victory

City of Hamilton responsible for pollution clean-up

Victory

Defending Friends of Lubicon’s right to free speech

Victory

Helping to defeat attack on government regulation

Victory

Protecting Ontario’s old growth forests

Victory

Upholding the Canadian Environmental Protection Act

Victory

Helping James Bay Cree protect Great Whale River

Victory

Defending Galiano Island residents’ right to speak out against logging

Victory

Forcing environmental assessments for all major projects

Victory

Court win halts logging in Wood Buffalo National Park