Canada’s great, ignored 1995 Biodiversity Strategy

Roelof Idema

Biodiversity supports human societies ecologically, economically, culturally and spiritually. Despite its importance, ecosystems are being degraded at an alarming rate due to the impact of our growing human population and increasing resource consumption rates. 

Canadian Biodiversity Strategy (1995)

In 1995, after years of effort, the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy was published and signed by all Provincial and Federal Ministers of Environment. It contains profoundly sound guidance which, of course, has been widely ignored in policy at all levels of governance. The poster below, beautifully illustrated by Roelof Idema, summarized the strategy and identified the signatories.

The global decline of biodiversity is now recognized as one of the most serious environmental issues facing humanity.  The planet’s living organisms are invaluable to human existence.

Canadian Biodiversity Strategy (1995)

The Strategy has five goals:

  • To conserve biodiversity and sustainably use biological resources;
  • To enhance both our understanding of ecosystems and our resource management capability;
  • To promote an understanding of the need to conserve biodiversity and sustainably use biological resources;
  • To provide incentives and legislation that support the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of biological resources; and
  • To work with other countries to conserve biodiversity, use biological resources sustainably and share equitably the benefits that arise from the utilization of genetic resources.

Since its adoption, the number of species assessed to be at risk in Canada has tripled. The Office of the Auditor General of Canada consistently highlights these failings, recently noting “Canada is blessed with an amazing natural heritage, but we have a history of failing to properly protect our biodiversity. Indeed, some of our once-most-common species, such as cod, bison, and now monarch butterflies, are at risk.” The auditor concludes that Environment and Climate Change Canada has not provided effective leadership on biodiversity.

Critical information on topics like biodiversity get displaced or discounted in policy by vested interests who elevate short-term concerns and discount far greater long-term consequences. In this context, it is hard not to drift into cynicism when opportunistic politicians commit with great fanfare to objectives like those in Canada’s Biodiversity Strategy which are soon abandoned or forgotten. Where there is no memory, there is no accountability.


References

Canada’s Biodiversity Strategy (full text)

Biodiversity in Canada: Commitments and Trends; The Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Reports to Parliament on Biodiversity by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development

Wild Species 2020: The General Status of Species in Canada; Report released in 2022 by the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council.

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