On January 10, 2011, the Environmental Commissioner’s released his special report “Biodiversity: A Nation’s Commitment, an Obligation for Ontario.” The Commissioner’s Press release is aptly titled “Ontario Government Missing in Action to Halt the Loss of Biodiversity.”
The Commissioner released his annual report in November 2011. In his remarks to the legislature he commented on the Province’s “stubborn refusal to engage in solutions…The behaviour is also evident in the controversial world of the Endangered Species Act.” The Act was passed in 2007, and has been in force since June 30, 2008. The Commissioner found the government’s responses to the recovery strategies developed so far (13 for the over 200 listed species) as “vague and weak responses which made little commitment to government action and were of little use in resolving the conflicts that arise on the landscape when the habitat of endangered species is in play. When it comes to protecting endangered species, the government is refusing to engage solutions.”
Our client, Sierra Club Ontario, just completed its submissions for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal after receiving a very disappointing decision of the Divisional Court last September related to the Endangered Species Act.
At the judicial review hearing, it was Sierra Club’s position that, in the course of issuing a permit to the Ministry of Transportation to harm at risk species and/or their habitat, the government did not fulfil its statutory obligations to protect three at risk species by ensuring that there would be no jeopardy to those species. The Ministry of Natural Resources issued the permit to permit the construction of a dedicated highway for a new international bridge crossing that our US partners in Michigan appear to have no interest in building. Highway construction, at an estimated $2 billion, proceeds apace, however.
The Commissioner’s comments on the government’s commitment to biodiversity and the Endangered Species Act support Sierra Club’s concerns that Ontario does not take its obligations to protect at risk species seriously. Sierra Club Ontario hopes to obtain leave to appeal to have its concerns addressed by the Court of Appeal.
Read the submissions of Sierra Club and Province on the motion for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal here: