When it comes to endangered species, we’re looking for ways to avoid the ‘litigation as law enforcement’ model we’ve had to take to get action for the most vulnerable organisms and ecosystems in Canada. One big step forward would be better provincial laws for endangered species, and in British Columbia there is hope that may just happen.
The feds already have a law, the Species at Risk Act, though we’ve consistently needed to take them to court to implement each incremental step the Act requires to protect species and their habitat. And federal law does not apply automatically on provincial land, except to aquatic species and migratory birds, but most land in Canada is provincial, only a minority of species are aquatic or migratory birds. Meanwhile, most provinces have yet to introduce legal protections for species and the habitat they depend on – greatly reducing our chances of ensuring that these species survive, let alone recover.
That might be changing in British Columbia, where we’re seeing talk that may lead to a meaningful species at risk law. Thanks in part to a multi-year effort by Ecojustice and our coalition partners highlighting the need for such a law, the BC government announced plans in its August Throne speech to create a Species-at-Risk Task Force. The team will be tasked with developing a new vision for endangered species protection in collaboration with the people of BC, and Ecojustice will be watching closely to see that this initiative delivers a much-needed endangered species law; as of now, the task force is yet to be created.
BC is Canada’s richest province biologically, but already at least 43% of BC’s +3800 species are at risk of disappearing. With a successful task force and a new provincial law we can end the current ‘death watch’ of endangered species in BC and provide a model for the rest of Canada.