Ontario fails to get job done, misses another federal deadline

TORONTO | Traditional territory of many nations – including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples – and now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples – In the wake of the Ontario Auditor General’s damning audit on species at risk, leading environmental groups are calling on federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault to step in and protect boreal caribou critical habitat in northern Ontario.

As revealed by the Auditor General, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) issued a warning to the province in March 2021 about non-conformity with the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) due to lack of protection for boreal caribou habitat. ECCC requested corrective action by the end of November, 2021.

The request flowed from a legal petition submitted by Ontario Nature, Wildlands League and David Suzuki Foundation with assistance from Ecojustice in 2018 urging the federal Minister to recommend a safety net order under section 61(4) of the SARA for two local boreal caribou populations in northwestern Ontario. These ranges are located approximately 120 km north west of Thunder Bay.

Instead of taking corrective action, the Government of Ontario has used omnibus bills to weaken the Endangered Species Act (ESA), granted the logging industry a permanent exemption from protecting and recovering species at risk, approved harmful developments in caribou habitat and approved a new forestry strategy to double logging in the province. Next are plans to speed up mining development in the so-called Ring of Fire.

The Ontario Auditor General’s Value for Money Audit and the federal government’s finding of non-conformance confirms what the groups have long known; Ontario has given up on species at risk. The audit concluded:

The Environment Ministry is not, however, acting in the best interests of species and their habitats. Our audit found that the Environment Ministry’s systems and processes for approvals facilitate and enable harm to species at risk and their habitats.

It’s time for Canada to use its legal authority to safeguard caribou habitat to do so, the groups state.

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For more information or a media interview, please contact:

Anna Baggio, Wildlands League, 416-453-3285

John Hassell, Ontario Nature, 416-786-2171

Rachel Plotkin, David Suzuki Foundation, 416-799-8435


Wildlands League is a not-for-profit charity that has been working to protect public lands and resources in Ontario since 1968, beginning with a campaign to protect Algonquin Park from development.

Ontario Nature is a charitable organization that has been working to protect Ontario’s wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement since 1931.

The David Suzuki Foundation is a national, non-profit organization that uses evidence-based research, education and policy analysis to conserve and protect the natural environment, and help create a sustainable Canada.