This page provides a summary of the recent Species at Risk Act legislation passed in Canada in December of 2002. The act, set to come into force in 2003, seeks to protect those species deemed to be endangered, threatened or "at risk" from extinction or extirpation as well as habitat critical to the survival of those species.
Summary of the Act derived from the text of the Species at Risk Act (SARA)
Her Excellency the Governor General recommends to the House of Commons the appropriation of public revenue under the circumstances, in the manner and for the purposes set out in a measure entitled ``An Act respecting the protection of wildlife species at risk in Canada''.
The purposes of this enactment are to prevent Canadian indigenous species, subspecies and distinct populations of wildlife from becoming extirpated or extinct, to provide for the recovery of endangered or threatened species, to encourage the management of other species to prevent them from becoming at risk.
This enactment establishes the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) as an independent body of experts responsible for assessing and identifying species at risk. It provides that COSEWIC's assessments are to be reported to the Minister of the Environment and to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council and it authorizes the Governor in Council to establish by regulation the official list of species at risk based on that process.
It requires that the best available knowledge be used to define long- and short-term objectives in a recovery strategy for endangered and threatened species and it provides for action plans to identify specific actions.
It creates prohibitions to protect listed threatened and endangered species and their critical habitat.
It recognizes that compensation may be needed to ensure fairness following the imposition of the critical habitat prohibitions.
It creates a public registry to assist in making documents under the Act more accessible to the public.
It is consistent with Aboriginal and treaty rights and respects the authority of other federal ministers and provincial governments.
Candian Press Release Related to the Species at Risk Act (SARA)
Species at Risk Act Given Royal Assent
OTTAWA, December 12, 2002 - The Species at Risk Act (SARA) received Royal Assent today, bringing to a close a nine-year legislative process to protect Canada's species at risk and their critical habitat. The new legislation will come into force in 2003.
"Today we fulfilled a commitment made by this government to ensure protection for species at risk and the places where they live," said the Honourable David Anderson, Minister of the Environment. "SARA is the result of an extensive consultation process that has seldom been seen in Canadian history and the legislation enjoys broad support among Canadians. This inclusive process will continue as the Act provides for openness and transparency at all stages."
SARA is one of three elements of the government's Strategy for the Protection of Species at Risk. Under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk, the Government of Canada works with provinces and territories on a common approach to protecting species at risk in Canada that includes complementary legislation and programs to protect habitat and species.
"Protecting species at risk is a shared responsibility of all governments in Canada," said Minister Anderson. "This Act ensures the federal responsibility is met, and it also helps to fulfill some of Canada's international obligations under the Biodiversity Convention."
The other key component of the federal Strategy is stewardship, a cornerstone of the Government of Canada's approach to species protection. Canada's Stewardship Agenda, approved earlier this year by federal, provincial and territorial Ministers of Wildlife, encourages Canadians to work together in a landscape approach to protect habitat, contribute to the recovery of species at risk and conserve Canada's natural heritage. One such initiative is the federal government's Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk, which funds projects that support habitat conservation and stewardship. Hundreds of projects involving Aboriginal organizations, landowners, businesses, industries, and non-government organizations have been approved over the last three years. The Government of Canada committed $45 million to the Habitat Stewardship Program over 5 years.
Minister Anderson also noted the link between the passage of SARA and the Government of Canada's overall environmental agenda. "SARA complements many other environmental initiatives," he said. "For instance, our actions on climate change also protect species and their habitats - we know climate change affects the forests and waters that support species."
The species at risk legislation ensures that species are assessed under a rigorous and independent scientific process that operates at arm's length from the federal government. It also requires the development of recovery action plans for species that are found to be most at risk, and recognizes the essential role of Aboriginal peoples in the conservation of wildlife by requiring the establishment of a National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk.
SARA will come into force by an order in council in 2003. In the period leading up to the order in council, the Government of Canada will develop the regulations required under the Act, including regulations on compensation.
For more information, please contact:
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of the Environment
Acting Chief of Media Relations
Link to Species at Risk Act (SARA) website containing further publications and FAQ's.