When it was introduced in 2007, Ontario’s Endangered Species Act (ESA) was considered the gold standard for species protection in North America. Unfortunately, recent years have seen Ontario shirk its duties to protect at-risk wildlife.
In 2013, the province introduced a regulation that exempts major industries from strict protection standards under the ESA – in many cases giving them a free pass to kill endangered or threatened species and destroy their habitat, as long as this harm is “minimized.” As a result, Ecojustice lawyers and our clients had no choice but to go to court earlier this year in an effort to quash that regulation and force the Ontario government to live up to its promise to defend endangered wildlife.
While we await a judgment in that case, we’ve learned that the province is dragging its feet on appointing members to the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario. This committee is the independent body of scientists responsible for determining which species need protection under the ESA. But the Committee is already short of quorum and will lose three more members on March 21.
Why does this matter? Because of a logic that’s sad but true.
Without quorum, the committee cannot meet to assess and classify species as endangered or threatened.
And a species that hasn’t been classified as endangered or threatened is not covered by the core protections of the ESA.
Species coming up for assessment include the Yellow-banded Bumble Bee, whose numbers have “steeply declined” in recent years, and the Eastern Wolf, of which “fewer than 500” remain in Canada, according to Ontario’s own estimates.
Until classified as endangered or threatened, these and other species have to go it alone – and could disappear from Ontario forever.
But together, there’s something we can do about it.
Take action by signing our open letter asking Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Bill Mauro, to move on recommending committee appointments to Cabinet so that Ontario can get down to the business of protecting endangered wildlife.
Let’s send a strong message to Ontario and remind government officials that we expect them to live up to their promise to defend endangered wildlife.