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

Species at Risk Act

Background

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.

History

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.

Purpose

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:

  • establish 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;
  • require that the best available knowledge be used to define long and short-term objectives in a recovery strategy and action plan;
  • create prohibitions to protect listed threatened and endangered species and their critical habitat;
  • recognize that compensation may be needed to ensure fairness following the imposition of the critical habitat prohibitions;
  • create a public registry to assist in making documents under the Act more accessible to the public; and
  • be consistent with Aboriginal and treaty rights and respect the authority of other federal ministers and provincial governments.

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.

  • Department of Environment and Climate Change

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change is responsible for the overall coordination of the federal species at risk strategy, including the implementation of federal activities in support of the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk in Canada (the Accord), the administration of the Habitat Stewardship Program for species at risk, and the Interdepartmental Recovery Fund.

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change is also responsible for the protection and recovery of migratory birds and species at risk on federal lands other than those under the responsibility of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans or those individuals under the responsibility of Parks Canada Agency. Under the Accord, it is understood that the provinces and territories will undertake actions and enforce prohibitions for the conservation of species at risk under their jurisdiction.

    In addition, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change is responsible for the initiation and facilitation of multi-jurisdictional recovery teams, and for coordinating the development of recovery strategies for species requiring the involvement of more than one jurisdiction. The Minister of the Environment and Climate Change will attempt to enter into agreements with provinces and territories for them to develop recovery strategies for species under their management responsibility.

  • Department of Fisheries and Oceans

    The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is responsible for the protection and recovery of aquatic species at risk under federal jurisdiction, other than individuals under the responsibility of the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change in the case of individuals found on National Wildlife Areas, and Parks Canada Agency.

    The Minister is responsible for implementing the necessary conservation and protection measures under the Species at Risk Act for aquatic species on the legal protection list. Aquatic species to be protected includes fish or marine plant species defined as such under the federal Fisheries Act, and those which have been assessed against COSEWIC's classification criteria.

    The Minister will work closely with both the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Parks Canada Agency, to ensure common and consistent approaches within the federal government to protecting species at risk.

  • Parks Canada Agency

    Parks Canada Agency is responsible for the development of recovery strategies for those species that occur in Canada primarily in national parks, national historic sites and other federal protected heritage areas under the authority of the Minister. The Minister is also responsible for the management and recovery of species found in national parks and lands administered by the Minister.

  • Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council

    The Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) consists of the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and Ministers of the provincial / territorial governments who are responsible for the conservation and management of a wildlife species in that province or territory. The role of CESCC is to provide general direction on the activities of COSEWIC; coordinate the activities of the various governments represented on the Council relating to the protection of species at risk; and seek and consider advice and recommendations from the National Aboriginal Council on species at risk.

  • Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada

    The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) provides advice to government on the status of wildlife species and was established for the first time as a legal entity under the Species at Risk Act. COSEWIC is composed of qualified wildlife experts drawn from the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, wildlife management boards, Aboriginal groups, universities, museums, national non-governmental organizations and others with expertise in the conservation of wildlife species in Canada. Members are appointed by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change after consultation with the Council (CESCC) and appropriate experts.

    COSEWIC operates at arm's length from government in an open and transparent process, maintaining impartial scientific and expert judgement in its assessment of wildlife species. The role of COSEWIC is to assess and classify the status of wildlife species using the best available information on the biological status of a species, including scientific knowledge, community knowledge, and Aboriginal traditional knowledge. COSEWIC classifies wildlife species and reports to the CESCC.

  • National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk

    The National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk (NACOSAR) is an advisory council comprised of six representatives of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada selected by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change based upon recommendations from Aboriginal organizations that the Minister considers appropriate. The role of the Council is to advise the Minister on the Administration of the Act and provide advice and recommendations to the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) under section 8.1 of the Species at Risk Act (SARA).

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.

The Interdepartmental Recovery Fund supports federal government departments, agencies and crown corporations in recovery and survey activities for species at risk.

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