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Groups ask Supreme Court to hear endangered species case

by Liam Casey, The Canadian Press,
Ottawa Community News,
December 13 2016

TORONTO Two environmental groups are taking their fight against Ontario's endangered species regulations to the country's highest court.

Ontario Nature and Wildlands League argue that some regulations in the province's Endangered Species Act exempt harmful industrial activities, leaving 167 species without statutory protection against being killed and their habitats destroyed.

In October, the Court of Appeal for Ontario upheld a lower court decision that found the provincial Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry was within its rights to grant exemptions to industries such as forestry, oil and gas and mining under changes made to the Endangered Species Act in 2013.

One of the act's 19 exemptions, for example, allows someone to kill or hurt caribou or damage or destroy the animal's habitat if that person is conducting forest operations, provided the person has an approved management plan.

The appellate court ruled that the government had properly considered the effects of the regulation on each species and that the law was meant to protect biological diversity while also considering social, economic and cultural concerns.

The groups have applied to the Supreme Court of Canada for leave to appeal.

"We still have a chance," said Anna Baggio, director of conservation planning with Wildlands League. "It might be a small chance, but the stakes are so high with endangered and threatened species that we just cannot give up and we're not going to give up."

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry said they are reviewing the documents filed to the Supreme Court and are preparing their responses.

"In October, the Ontario Court of Appeal released its decision affirming the decision of the divisional court upholding the validity of a regulation made in 2013 under the Endangered Species Act, 2007," said Jolanta Kowalski. "The decision was unanimous."

By Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

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