Responding to Global Problems
Environmental problems not only cross national boundaries, but also the boundaries between federal and provincial jurisdictions. The Canadian federal government manages our oceans and is responsible for inland fisheries. It can also regulate international trade and participate in the making of international laws. Provincial governments look after laws pertaining to lands, wildlife, and water quality. You can imagine how important — and difficult — it is to coordinate federal and provincial laws so they'll work together to protect our environment. In Canada, federal, provincial and territorial acts, plus many policies and agreements, are concerned with the protection and use of our watery spaces! Some examples appear below.
Preventing Land-based Pollution
The Canadian Environmental Protection Act defines acceptable limits of contaminants in the environment and also controls and prevents air pollution. Under one section of the Act, known as the Ocean Disposal Program, Canada places strict controls on the dumping of wastes at sea, as required by the London Convention. The act also imposes penalties, such as fines and jail terms, on those disobeying its regulations.
Land-based pollution in Canada is also addressed by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. According to this act, the federal government must commission an assessment of any of its own projects that could disrupt the environment. A project that is not federal but could have significant interprovincial or international impacts may also have to undergo an assessment. This process includes an in-depth study, which is then scrutinized by a panel including environmental experts. A follow-up takes place to ensure that any recommendations made by the panel are carried out. Public involvement is allowed throughout this process.
Sections 34 to 43 of the Federal Fisheries Act cover pollution in Canadian waters, including the area within the 200-mile limit. The act asserts that nothing harmful to fish or their habitat may be put into the water. Some substances, however, may be discharged, but only in amounts deemed acceptable under the act. Individuals or groups disobeying these sections of the act can be penalized.
Putting a Stop to Overfishing
The Federal Fisheries Act regulates fishing and the harvesting of marine plants in Canadian waters, and the fishing activities of our vessels wherever they operate. The act also controls commercial and recreational fishing licences, the type of equipment permitted, harvesting seasons for various species, and records that fishers and fish processors must keep. Amendments to the act are being considered to improve fisheries resource management.
Canada's Oceans Act gives Canada more power over maritime zones, including using, conserving, and managing all natural resources within the 200-mile limit. It also consists of methods of protecting and conserving estuarine, coastal, and marine ecosystems.
Reducing Habitat Loss and Degradation
Because land use falls mainly under the jurisdiction of provincial governments, there are very few federal laws to protect wildlife habitat. Some federal laws, however, do keep watery habitats out of harm. For example, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act requires that any federal project potentially disruptive to wildlife habitat undergoes an evaluation. Activities harmful to fish habitat are forbidden under the Fisheries Act. The Canada Oceans Act demands management strategies for wildlife-rich coasts, estuaries, and oceans. It will encourage the conservation and protection of special marine habitats. The 1991 Federal Policy on Wetlands Conservation also strengthens the aims of the Ramsar Convention.
The Migratory Birds Convention Act is enforced by the federal and provincial governments. It forbids the possession or sale of migratory birds, nests, or eggs. However, some of these species may be hunted according to special rules.
The Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act improves Canadian laws governing our responsibilities under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. It regulates federal, provincial, and territorial anti-poaching strategies and controls how wildlife and plants are sold in Canada and abroad. This act also prevents the transport of species from other countries, or from province to province, if the balance of native ecosystems is threatened.
Conserving Biological Diversity
After ratifying the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Canada drew up its own Canadian Biodiversity Strategy. This strategy builds on many laws, policies and programs that already exist in Canada and promotes a more ecological approach in the way we use natural resources. Although this strategy was developed by federal, provincial, and territorial governments in consultation with non-government organizations, it can serve as a guide for all Canadians in conserving biodiversity. Federal, provincial, and territorial ministers have also signed the Statement of Commitment to Conserve Canada's Biodiversity and to Use Biological Resources Sustainably.
© Canadian Wildlife Federation
All rights reserved. Web site content may be electronically copied or printed for classroom, personal and non-commercial use. All other users must receive written permission.