Woodland caribou

Woodland caribou KI Lands

Endangered Species Act Lawsuit

On May 4, 2017, the Supreme Court denied our leave application for our Endangered Species Act case. The act was considered the gold standard law for species protection in North America until the government dramatically weakened it in 2013.

Sadly, this is the end of the line with the courts. From the boreal caribou to the Blanding’s turtle to golden eagles, all of Ontario’s most at-risk wildlife suffered a legal blow.   

The provincial government has abandoned species at risk, but Ontario Nature will not. Ontario Nature will rally with members, partners and allies to protect Ontario’s most vulnerable species and the habitats they rely on for their very survival.

Veteran lawyers Lara Tessaro and Anastasia Lintner represented Ontario Nature and Wildlands League. The legal case challenged the Ontario Divisional Court’s decision to uphold a provincial regulation that exempts major industrial activities— including forestry, mining, energy, and residential development — from the strict protection standards outlined in the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In many instances, these exemptions give industries a free pass to kill endangered or threatened species and destroy their habitat, as long as this harm is “minimized.”

We lost our case, and now it is time to pursue other options.

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  • 2007: The Ontario government passes the ESA, considered the gold standard law for species protection in North America.
  • July 1, 2013: The provincial Cabinet regulation under the ESA that dramatically weakens protection for Ontario’s at-risk wildlife came into effect. The regulation exempts many major industrial activities from the ESA, allowing them to dodge crucial protection measures. It also significantly reduces government oversight of harmful activities.
  • September, 2013: Ontario Nature joins forces with the Wildlands League to sue the government over the regulation. Click here to read our press release announcing the lawsuit.
  • May 29, 2015: Ontario’s Divisional Court upholds the provincial regulation. Click here to read a press release about the decision.
  • September 2015: Ontario Nature and Wildlands League win the right to appeal this very disappointing decision.
  • April 19, 2016: The appeal is heard in Toronto.
  • October 11, 2016: The Ontario Court of Appeal rules that the exemption regulation is lawful.
  • December 9, 2017: Ontario Nature and CPAWS Wildlands file for leave to appeal with the Supreme Court of Canada.
  • May 4, 2017: Supreme Court of Canada denies leave to appeal.

Why does it matter?

The survival of Ontario’s most vulnerable wildlife is now weighed against competing industrial interests, which may tip the scale towards extinction. Every single endangered and threatened species in the province is deprived of the full protection of the law.

Who else cares?

Click here to read the letter that Ontario Nature, and more than 50 other organizations, sent to Premier Kathleen Wynne asking that the Endangered Species Act be upheld. Nothing beats these words of wisdom from Ontario Nature’s Youth Council imploring the Premier to stand up for endangered species.

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