Unfortunately, it has come to this.
We have decided to withdraw our complaint with the Commission on Environmental Cooperation that alleges the government of Canada has failed to enforce laws to protect at least 197 native at-risk species. By doing so, we’re sending the message that there needs to be a stronger commitment from both international bodies and national governments to protect species at risk.
Why are we doing this?
When Ecojustice, on behalf of Nature Canada and 13 other Canadian and U.S. organizations, filed the complaint nearly four years ago, we expected that it would result in an independent assessment of our allegation that Canada is not enforcing species protection law. What we got instead was cherry-picking that would have conveniently concealed Canada’s continuing inaction.
This became painfully clear when it was announced last week that the complaint, filed in 2006, would be investigated by the Commission on Environmental Cooperation (CEC), a body created by NAFTA to oversee environmental issues tied to the trade agreement. Unfortunately, the CEC said it would only look at 11 species, greatly narrowing the scope of its review.
These are not just any 11 species.
The biased sample happens to include those exceptional cases that would give the impression that Canada is doing a much better job than is true. In light of this limited approach, we have withdrawn our complaint, since excessive delays and political interference in the investigation’s scope have made the investigation meaningless at best, and more likely counterproductive.
What is worse, is that Canada’s record on implementing the Species at Risk Acthas anything but improved since our original 2006 complaint. That means species at risk are languishing without government plans to rescue them, without the required identification of their habitat, and without protection.
Echoing our thoughts on the CEC’s recent decision, Joe Scott of U.S.-based Conservation Northwest says: “The NAFTA review process is being shown to be nothing but smoke and mirrors. We are pulling our complaint so that such a government green-washing process doesn’t get a reputation for credibility it doesn’t deserve.”
The silver lining to this cloud is that, in the years that the governments delayed responding to our complaint, Ecojustice has been successful at advancing our case through Canadian courts. Judgements in a number of cases have confirmed that Canada has failed to live up to the obligations of its species protection law. The true test of the federal government’s commitment to conservation will be its response to a parliamentary committee studying possible improvements to the implementation of the Species at Risk Act. We expect that report later this year.