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Government review of environmental and regulatory processes
Canada’s federal environmental and regulatory processes are currently under review to restore public confidence in government decision-making by modernizing and improving key federal environmental legislation, including the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012), the National Energy Board, and the Navigation Protection Act. WCS Canada staff have been and will continue to be engaged with the Fisheries Act and CEAA 2012 processes.
The Fisheries Act is an important piece of legislation that gives the Government of Canada the authority to manage fisheries and protect fish habitat. However, protection for fish and fish habitats has been declining in Canada for at least a decade. To be effective, it will be important for the Fisheries Act to be modernized, including evidence-based approaches to protecting fish and fish habitat, and restore provisions that were removed in 2012. The reform process for this legislation must carefully consider important factors like climate change and cumulative effects, and seek to improve monitoring and enforcement. You can learn more through this useful brief from West Coast Environmental Law, which provides an overview of the importance of the Fisheries Act, and changes that could be made to improve the protection of fish and fish habitats in Canada.
CEAA 2012 came into force in July 2012 and was widely regarded by experts and practitioners as a “step backwards” in environmental decision-making. To address this, the federal government has expressed its intention to introduce new, fair processes that are robust, incorporate scientific evidence, protect our environment, respect the rights of Indigenous peoples, and support economic growth. From our experience in reviewing environmental assessments of major projects and our scientific understanding of ecological impacts of development projects, the “next generation of environmental assessment” will need to address sustainability, cumulative effects, climate change, strategic environmental assessment, and improved participation by Indigenous people and the public.
There is an opportunity for the public to get involved and have their say. The Government of Canada is seeking public input through a short online questionnaire on improving Canada’s environmental and regulatory processes, which is available until August 31 2016. Let the government know that Canadians care about the protection of wildlife and wild places and want to see effective, transparent, evidence-based environmental and regulatory processes for environmental protection in Canada.
Laws devoted to the protection and recovery of species at risk are meant to provide added protection measures after regular management approaches have been insufficient to stave off extinction risk. Once a species is “listed” by government as at risk of extinction, it becomes eligible for additional protection measures, particularly those related to safeguarding affected habitats. Depending on how complex the threats are, the set of actions required to reverse or mitigate impacts can be multifaceted and challenging to implement. WCS Canada scientists, who have considerable field and policy experience with a number of Canadian species, have contributed comments on species at risk recovery strategies that were put out for public review in the last several months.
The 16th North American Caribou Workshop was held in May in Thunder Bay - the first time in 20 years it was hosted in Ontario. This year’s workshop theme is Connections: exploring the link between people, disciplines and ecosystems to further caribou conservation and management. More than 250 people from science, academia, indigenous communities, NGOs, government, and practitioners – drawn by their common interest in caribou – will assemble to share their knowledge, ideas, stories, and most recent discoveries. This conference will provide a discussion forum to confront these challenges and fill gaps in knowledge and understanding of this fascinating animal.
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