Species at risk: the act, the accord and the funding programs

Species at Risk Act


The Species at Risk Act (SARA) was proclaimed in June 2003, and is one part of a three part Government of Canada strategy for the protection of wildlife species at risk. This three part strategy also includes commitments under the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk and activities under the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk.

In addition, it complements existing laws and agreements to provide for the legal protection of wildlife species and conservation of biological diversity. The Act aims to prevent wildlife species from becoming extinct, and to secure the necessary actions for their recovery.

The Act recognises that the protection of wildlife species is a joint responsibility and that all Canadians have a role to play in the protection of wildlife. It applies to all federal lands in Canada; all wildlife species listed as being at risk; and their critical habitat.


The Species at Risk Act (SARA), was introduced and deemed to have passed all stages as Bill C-5, in the House of Commons on October 9th, 2002. This bill was identical to an earlier bill with the same title and number that had been tabled at the beginning of the 1st session of the 37th Parliament in February 2001, but that died on the Order Paper when Parliament was prorogued in September 2002.

Two other bills preceded Bill C-5: Bill C-33, the Species at Risk Act, which was tabled in April 2000 and died on the Order Paper when the general election was called in 2000; and Bill C-65, the Canada Endangered Species Protection Act (CESPA), which was tabled in October 1996 and died on the Order Paper when the general election was called in 1997.

Bill C-5 was virtually identical to the earlier Bill C-5 tabled in the previous session. It is also very similar to its predecessor, Bill C-33, although a number of minor changes and corrections were added. Those two previous bills were consistent with Bill C-65 (CESPA), but with a number of significant differences. The bills varied in their scope and in their approach to the exercise of federal jurisdiction in the area of species protection.


The purposes of the Act are to prevent Canadian indigenous species, subspecies, and distinct populations from becoming extirpated or extinct, to provide for the recovery of endangered or threatened species, and encourage the management of other species to prevent them from becoming at risk.

More specifically, the Act will:

SARA is a result of the implementation of the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy, which is in response to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. The Act provides federal legislation to prevent wildlife species from becoming extinct and to provide for their recovery.

Responsible authorities

This section provides information on the roles and responsibilities of the key departments, committees, and councils tasked with carrying out activities under the Act. In general, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change is responsible for the overall administration, except when the Act gives responsibility to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk

Federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for wildlife commit to a national approach for the protection of species at risk. The goal is to prevent species in Canada from becoming extinct as a consequence of human activity.

Funding programs for species at risk

The Habitat Stewardship Program (HSP) for Species at Risk is a conservation initiative that helps Canadians protect species and their habitats. The Program is administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada and is managed cooperatively with Parks Canada Agency and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The Aboriginal Fund for Species at Risk (AFSAR) builds capacity in Aboriginal communities and organizations to help implement the Species at Risk Act. It supports Aboriginal involvement in activities that protect or conserve habitats for species at risk.

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