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press release

Nova Scotia court confirms province failed to protect endangered species

May 29, 2020

Province broke its own law by failing to adhere to Nova Scotia’s Endangered Species Act

HALIFAX – Environmental groups applaud today’s landmark decision from the Nova Scotia Supreme Court stating that the Government of Nova Scotia must meet legal requirements to protect species at risk. These requirements include creating recovery plans for listed species and identifying species’ core habitat.

In September 2019, East Coast Environmental Law, represented by Ecojustice lawyers, intervened in a judicial review of the Minister of Lands and Forestry’s failure to fulfill mandatory duties to protect at-risk species under Nova Scotia’s Endangered Species Act (ESA).

This was the first time the ESA had been interpreted by a court in Nova Scotia.

Representatives from Ecojustice and East Coast Environmental Law made the following statements in response to the Court’s ruling:

Sarah McDonald, Ecojustice lawyer said:

“Today’s decision confirms that Nova Scotia’s ESA is the law, and not a set of vague or voluntary guidelines. The Minister is required to fulfill the law’s mandatory requirements to protect some of the province’s most vulnerable species.

“This is a landmark victory for the province’s endangered species. The Court’s decision reinforces the fact that stopping biodiversity loss is urgent and important, and in order to do so the government must take seriously its duty to follow existing species protection laws.”

Lisa Mitchell, Executive Director of East Coast Environmental Law said:

“We are encouraged by the Court’s decision to hold the Minister accountable for the protection of Nova Scotia’s at-risk species. The Endangered Species Act was passed more than 20 years ago and the requirements in the Act represent the most basic steps to prevent the loss of species diversity in the province.

“It is disappointing that this matter had to go to court, but, now that a decision has been handed down we look forward to compliance with the law and positive steps for species protection and recovery.”

Background information:

  • In 2015, East Coast Environmental Law wrote a report on the province’s failures to protect endangered species.
  • In 2016, Nova Scotia’s Auditor General condemned the provincial government inaction and made five recommendations to improve.
  • In January 2019, East Coast Environmental Law updated and expanded their 2015 report.
  • In May 2020, an Auditor General’s report revealed that only one of the five recommendations from 2016 had been acted upon.


Ecojustice goes to court and uses the power of the law to defend nature, combat climate change, and fight for a healthy environment. Its strategic, innovative public interest lawsuits lead to legal precedents that deliver lasting solutions to Canada’s most urgent environmental problems. As Canada’s largest environmental law charity, Ecojustice operates offices in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, and Halifax.

East Coast Environmental Law responds to community inquiries, carries out legal and policy research and presents educational resources and opportunities to increase public awareness of environmental laws in Atlantic Canada. Our objective is to build capacity in the public and among legal practitioners so that we can work together to ensure that environmental laws are effectively used and strengthened.