By Dr. Anastasia Lintner, EcoJustice
There are many plants, birds and animals in Ontario whose survival is currently endangered or threatened. Without a concerted effort to ensure that these species are protected from harm, and have the homes and spaces necessary for their survival, we risk losing them altogether. The Ontario government has failed to deliver on its promise to defend endangered and threatened species.
And today, we’re doing something about that.
A promise to Ontarians and species at risk
In May 2007, we stood up with a coalition of environmental groups to celebrate significantly improved legal protections for Ontario’s at-risk species and their habitats. We saw the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA), as the best legal framework for protecting species at risk. It was a gold-star or A+ effort that was worth celebrating. All that was left to do was for the provincial government to implement the new law and uphold its commitment to use a strong, science-based approach to species protection.
A promise goes unfulfilled
Since the new law was put on the books, things have gone downhill.
2008: The Ontario government missed the deadline to put habitat protections into place for Woodland Caribou when the new law came into force.
2011: More than two years later, the Ontario government exempted logging, mining, road building activities from meeting requirements of the ESA for Woodland Caribou.
2012: The Ontario government attempted to amend the ESA through omnibus budget legislation. This effort failed at the all-party budget hearings, where committee members from the New Democratic Party and the Progressive Conservative Party voted down the government’s proposed amendments.
2012: As a result of the continuing lack of effective implementation of the ESA, we gave Ontario a C+ in our 2012 report card on species protection.
Gutting the Endangered Species Act: Introducing exemptions
In December 2012, the Ministry of Natural Resources — including Minister David Orazietti — began consulting on proposed new regulations for the ESA. Despite public opposition to his proposal, Orazietti recommended (and Cabinet subsequently made) a new regulation that harms species by allowing major industries to avoid strict standards intended to protect at-risk species and their habitats. These new regulatory exemptions largely came into effect in July 2013. Read article