Biologists slam Canada’s new endangered species legislation

More than 1,300 of the world’s top biologists have fiercely condemned Canada’s proposed legislation to protect endangered species as offering less than Third World standards.

The 1,331 biologists signed a scathing letter to Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, which is thought to be one of the nation’s biggest scientific revolts, especially criticising the fact that Bill C-5, the Species at Risk Act (see related story), does not protect an endangered species’ habitat on provincial land, meaning that it may only guarantee about 5% of land required to adequately preserve species. The scientists also fear that the Government will refuse to challenge provinces over responsibility for wildlife and note that some of the endangered migratory songbirds and waterfowl whose habitat is protected in the United States and Mexico will essentially be unprotected in Canada, where they breed.

The bill has already been dropped twice before, but has now passed second its second reading and is expected to pass the third later this year. Among the signatories of the letter are many fellows of the Royal Society of Canada, chimpanzee expert Jane Goodall and geneticist David Suzuki. “It’s a piece of Novocain doing nothing to repair the problem,” commented one of the world’s leading ecologists, David Schindler. “It makes us look like a Third World country.”

However, Minister of the Environment David Anderson has vigourously defended the bill. “The Proposed Species at Risk Act, Bill C-5, will guarantee that all species in Canada, wherever they live, are protected,” he said. “Some are calling for stronger legislation. But stronger legislation doesn’t always mean better. In the US, for example, the Endangered Species Act is touted as a strong piece of legislation. But its legalistic and confrontational nature has ground species protection to a halt. Because lawsuits are consuming its … budget, there has been a nation-wide moratorium since last November on listing species for protection. We don’t want this kind of confrontation in Canada… In the end, this kind of confrontation only hurts our endangered species.”

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