Ecojustice Case – Nature Case Status: In Progress

Fighting for endangered species in Nova Scotia

James Gunvaldsen KlaassenLawyer
Sarah McDonald, Articling StudentSarah McDonaldLawyer
East Coast Environmental LawClient
Eastern Wood Pewee
by-Andrew-Cannizzaro-via-Flickr-Attribution-2.0-Generic-CC-BY-2.0

For years, the Nova Scotia government has failed to adequately protect species-at-risk in the province. We’re taking them to court to ensure they follow their own law, the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Nova Scotia’s ESA sets out timelines and milestones for species recovery. But for years, the province has treated the law like a vague guideline rather than as the law of the land.

In 2015, our clients at East Coast Environmental Law sounded the alarm over Nova Scotia’s poor implementation of the ESA. Their report concluded the government had failed to comply with the law for 20 out of 37 species in decline.

A year later, Nova Scotia’s auditor general similarly condemned the provincial government’s inaction, and made five recommendations for improvement. The province still has yet to fulfill those recommendations.

This can’t continue, given the global biodiversity crisis. At an absolute minimum, when there are laws on the books to protect and recover endangered wildlife, governments must follow them.

Why is Ecojustice involved?

This is the first time the ESA has been interpreted in the court in Nova Scotia, so the outcome could have significant impacts on species recovery in the province. We are intervening so that the court will enforce legal protections for species at risk, as well as to encourage the court to consider Nova Scotia’s ESA within the broader context of endangered species across Canada. We want to Nova Scotia’s ESA interpreted consistently with the Species at Risk Act, because it would benefit species recovery if the two laws act together.

What would a win mean?

A victory in this case would mean that the Nova Scotia government would be forced to follow their law and take action on species protected under the Endangered Species Act – to fulfill their current legal obligations, at a bare minimum. At a time that biodiversity is under threat both in Canada and around the world, we cannot allow governments to ignore their legal responsibility to protect species-at-risk.

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