Foundation comments on the proposal to increase protection under federal legislation

OTTAWA | TRADITIONAL, UNCEDED TERRITORY OF THE ALGONQUIN ANISHNAABEG PEOPLE (May 15, 2023) — After more than six years of delay, the government’s proposal to reclassify monarch butterflies as endangered and increase protection for two western bumblebee subspecies is welcome news, especially as it could include restrictions on pesticides, such as glyphosate.

Rachel Plotkin, boreal project manager with the David Suzuki Foundation, said:

“If the government lists the monarch butterfly as endangered, it would become illegal to kill, harm, harass or capture them on federal land. In addition, the government would have to develop a recovery strategy and action plan.

“The David Suzuki Foundation notes that it is essential for the federal government to work with First Nations to uphold treaty and land-governance rights. As well, monarch butterfly and western bumblebee recovery strategies must include clear direction for effective provincial and territorial action off federal land.”

Lisa Gue, national policy manager with the David Suzuki Foundation, said:

“The David Suzuki Foundation is calling for recovery strategies to include restrictions on pesticide use in monarch butterfly and western bumblebee habitat. The government must waste no time in finalizing the proposal and strategy to stop the decline of these species.

“Canada has committed to halting and reversing biodiversity loss under the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. Monarchs and western bumblebees urgently need those words to translate into action. That means effective recovery strategies without delay and use of Species at Risk Act tools to ensure those strategies are implemented.

“Will government follow through — or continue to sit by while these species decline?

“Widespread use of the controversial herbicide glyphosate has wiped out milkweed (the monarch butterfly’s host plant) from much of the landscape, contributing to monarch decline. Other chemicals, like neonicotinoid pesticides, can be particularly toxic to insects like bees and butterflies and have been banned in other countries.”

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On March 8, 2016, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada formally recommended that the federal government change the designation of monarch butterflies from special concern to endangered under the Species at Risk Act.

The David Suzuki Foundation and Environmental Defence submitted comments in December 2022, calling for the government to end years of delay and afford monarchs full protection under the Species at Risk Act as endangered species. More than 9,000 people sent letters in support during last year’s consultation.

Earlier this month, member of Parliament Jenica Atwin tabled a petition signed by more than 18,300 people calling for a ban on glyphosate. The government has 45 sitting days to respond to the petition.

As the recent environment commissioner’s report noted,[1] implementation of the federal Species at Risk Act has been significantly hindered by systemic delays and failures to build effective pathways toward recovery (such as action plans.)

Canada has recently launched consultations on a new 2030 biodiversity strategy to implement commitments made in December, under the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

[1] Reports of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development to the Parliament of Canada—2023