|Threatened and Endangered Species
Species at Risk Act
Canada's Species at Risk Act: Implementation at a Snail's Pace
In order for the Act to apply to a species, it must first be listed for protection. This involves a two-step process. First, a species must be assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), an independent scientific body that assesses the status of species and designates them as extirpated, endangered, threatened, special concern, or not at risk. Second, for a species designated in one of the "at risk" categories, the federal government must decide whether to add it to the formal list under SARA. If it does not decide within nine months, the Minister of Environment must list it.
In practice, however, the government has failed to meet this nine-month timeline. Although there is no provision for it in the Act, the government has created an "extended listing process" that has resulted in limbo for many species. At least 53 species at risk are likely continuing to decline while government takes between 17 and 29 months (i.e. two to three times longer than what is legally allowable) to determine whether or not to add them to the list, and for some species the delays are indefinite. Such delays can jeopardize the recovery of a species that is already on the brink of extinction.
In addition, there appears a clear bias against listing certain kinds of species. Overall, COSEWIC has assessed 551 species as extirpated, endangered, threatened, or special concern. The number of species listed under SARA is 449. Chances of eventual listing have been fairly good for most species - with the exception of species found in the oceans or in