October 15, 2007

Factual record advised for submission to CEC on SARA

The Commission for Environmental Co-operation (CEC) has recommended that a factual record be developed for a submission on Species at Risk (SEM-06-005) filed a year ago by a coalition of environmental and conservation groups. The recommendation will be considered by the CEC Council, comprised of the senior environmental officials of the Canadian, U.S. and Mexican governments. If the Council agrees, by a two-thirds vote, that a factual record should be prepared, it will direct the CEC secretariat to do so.

The Species at Risk submission was filed with the CEC in October 2006 by the Sierra Club (in both Canada and the U.S.), Nature Canada, the David Suzuki Foundation, Conservation Northwest, Environmental Defence, ForestEthics, Ontario Nature, Western Canada Wilderness Committee, BC Nature, the Federation of Alberta Naturalists, the Natural History Society of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nature Nova Scotia and Nature Quebec. They are being represented by Sierra Legal Defence Fund.

The submission alleges that Canada is failing to effectively enforce the provisions of the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) concerning requirements for listing species for protection under the Act, recovery planning, and the issuing of emergency orders.

The federal government responded to the submission by stating that SARA is a relatively new and complex piece of legislation that requires extensive consultations and collaboration. Making reference to court actions filed by environmental groups in 2006 citing inadequate protection of the northern spotted owl and the piping plover, the government argued that in view of these proceedings, the CEC secretariat should not pursue any further action on the latest allegations concerning use of emergency orders and identification of critical habitat.

Responding to allegations that the federal government posted only 23 out of 133 recovery strategies that were due in 2006, Canada maintained that this type of broad-based allegation should not be considered by the Secretariat.

After reviewing the submission in light of Canada's response, the secretariat concluded that the submission warrants development of a factual record, in view of the fact that judicial proceedings cited in Canada's response have been discontinued. The CEC also said Canada's response leaves open central questions raised by the submission.

The development of a factual record would involve compiling information relevant to considering whether Canada is failing to effectively enforce sections 42, 41 and 80 of SARA. It would seek details relating to delays in posting recovery strategies for 110 species; the alleged failure to specify species' critical habitat in recovery strategies that have been posted; and failure by the federal Environment Minister to recommend that the Cabinet issue emergency orders for the protection of the northern spotted owl in BC and the woodland caribou in Alberta, despite the alleged existence of imminent threats to the survival or recovery of these species.

More information is available in the Citizen Submissions on Enforcement Matters section of the CEC Web site, www.cec.org.

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