Acts and Regulations: Protected Areas

Legislative and regulatory direction for the creation of protected areas by Environment and Climate Change Canada is provided under the acts and regulations indicated below.


Canada Wildlife Act (CWA)

The CWA, passed in 1973, empowers the Minister of the Environment to acquire lands to create National Wildlife Areas, in order to establish, manage and protect wildlife areas, and to enable wildlife research activities as well as the conservation and interpretation of wildlife. The act’s purpose is to preserve habitats that are critical to migratory birds and other wildlife species, particularly those that are at risk.

Migratory Birds Convention Act (MBCA)

The 1994 MBCA was originally passed in 1917 in order to implement the Migratory Birds Convention of 1916, signed between Great Britain (on behalf of Canada) and the United Sates. The MBCA aims to protect and conserve migratory birds as populations and individuals, their nests, and the habitat necessary for their survival. The act provides for regulations to prohibit the taking, injuring, destruction or disturbing of migratory birds, their eggs and nests, within any prescribed protected area. That provision forms the basis for establishing sanctuaries for migratory birds and for enacting regulations to control and administer such sanctuaries.

The Parksville Protocol is an amendment to the 1916 Migratory Birds Convention. It was signed on December 14, 1995, between Canada and the United States. The amendment came into force in October, 1999, resulting in the addition of the Protocol to the Migratory Birds Convention Act’s schedule. The Protocol improves the Convention by enhancing conservation efforts to provide for and protect the habitat necessary for migratory birds, and includes an updated list of migratory birds under the convention's Article I. The Protocol further recognizes and endorses Aboriginal traditional harvesting rights, and clarifies and expands some of Environment and Climate Change Canada’s obligations in relation to migratory birds (Article II to V of the Convention).

Species at Risk Act (SARA)

SARA, passed by Parliament in 2002, aims to prevent “ … wildlife species from being extirpated or becoming extinct, to provide for the recovery of wildlife species that are extirpated, endangered or threatened as a result of human activity and to manage species of special concern to prevent them from becoming endangered or threatened.” As such, SARA strengthens the CWA for creating National Wildlife Areas to also protect wildlife habitat and empowers the Minister to “ … establish codes of practice, national standards or guidelines with respect to the protection of critical habitat.” For more information on initiatives and programs related to species at risk, consult the Environment and Climate Change Canada web section on Species at Risk.

Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA)

The 1995 CEAA ensures that rigorous environmental assessment is performed for projects carried out by the federal government or Crown corporations where the assessment includes public consultation. With respect to Environment and Climate Change Canada’s protected areas, such assessment is conducted to evaluate a proposed project’s potential impacts on the protected area.

Oceans Act

Passed in 1997, the act addresses Canadian authority over economic zones in Canada’s coastal regions. The act also tasks the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to lead and coordinate the development of a national network of marine protected areas on behalf of the government of Canada.


Wildlife Area Regulations (WAR)

These 1977 regulations identify prohibited activities in National Wildlife Areas listed under Schedule 1, i.e., activities that could be harmful to species or their habitat--unless a permit has been issued to authorize the activity. The regulations are regularly amended to incorporate new protected areas as well as any changes regarding listed National Wildlife Areas, including revisions of a National Wildlife Area’s boundaries.

Migratory Bird Sanctuary Regulations (MBSR)

The 1994 regulations prescribe areas for sanctuaries and their governance, and identify prohibited disturbances of migratory birds, their eggs, and their nests within a Migratory Bird Sanctuary. The regulations also prohibit disturbances of migratory birds’ habitat in Migratory Bird Sanctuaries established on federal lands, unless a permit has been issued for the activity. The MBSR can be amended to incorporate new protected areas and any changes regarding listed sanctuaries, such as the revision of a protected area boundary.

Migratory Birds Regulations (MBR)

The 1917 MBR implement the MBCA according to its prescribed prohibitions against the harming of migratory birds, their nests and their eggs, including the deposit of harmful substances in any waters or any area frequented by migratory birds. The MBR also provide for the issuance of permits or authorizations for certain activities according to specified criteria and conditions. The regulations are amended on a regular basis to reflect hunting restrictions. For more information on policies and regulations related to migratory birds, please visit the Environment and Climate Change Canada web section on Migratory Birds.

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