Margaret Atwood, Stephen Lewis, Gordon Lightfoot, Dan Roronhiakewen Longboat and more speak out for Ontario’s species at risk
TORONTO — People from across Ontario are declaring solidarity with species at risk and calling for urgent change in the way we affect the natural world that sustains us. More than 35 authors, musicians, Indigenous Peoples, businesses and environmental organizations issued a joint statement today emphasizing humans’ collective responsibility to protect the natural health of Ontario, Canada and the planet.
The statement was issued on the heels of the Government of Ontario’s public consultation on the Endangered Species Act, 2007. As the public awaits the government’s amendments to the act, its commitment to increasing “efficiencies for business” has prompted fears about the fate of plants and animals already imperilled throughout the province.
More than 230 of Ontario’s plant and animal species are in danger of disappearing, largely due to habitat loss and disturbance. Industrial activity and development are key drivers of that loss. The ESA already provides significant exemptions to industry; further weakening the act will only increase the threats to the province’s most vulnerable species.
The joint statement emphasizes the interconnection of all life and the importance of the persistence and recovery of species at risk for human health. It also highlights the limits to Earth’s capacity to sustain human activity, and the urgent need to change our approach to how we interact with nature.
A selection of signatories to the statement had the following to say:
Sarah Harmer, musician:
“We are in the midst of a massive loss of biodiversity worldwide. Habitat destruction is the leading cause of loss of species. Ontario is home to precious wetlands, forests, grasslands and other complex ecosystems that support critical species at risk. Ontario citizens want to protect the most rare and endangered populations of plants and animals with whom we share this land and water. The Ontario government needs to strengthen our Endangered Species Act.”
Larry McDermott, Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation, executive director, Plenty Canada:
“We are the elements governed by natural law and part of and responsible to all of Creation. Our rights flow from this relationship. The Ontario Endangered Species Act, 2007, is designed to share our ways of knowing and is a tool for achieving international treaty-based targets for biodiversity and climate change, and even more importantly, to restore our relationships with the rest of the web of life.”
Caroline Schultz, executive director, Ontario Nature:
“All life forms matter. As the main culprit imperilling the biodiversity that sustains us, humans have a collective responsibility to protect the planet’s most vulnerable plants and animals, including the 230 that are listed as species at risk in Ontario. We must not abdicate our responsibility. There is no time to waste. The clock is ticking.”
David Suzuki, scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation:
“The Ontario Endangered Species Act is meant to protect the province’s most vulnerable animals and plants. If we allow even more of their critical habitat to be opened up for business, it’s only a matter of time before that life support is cut off completely. The Ontario government has a responsibility to identify and protect species at risk. These species have already been waiting too long for our support. It’s beyond time to strengthen the act and improve its implementation, not go backwards by opening the door for more business.”
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For more information or to request an interview:
Stefanie Carmichael, David Suzuki Foundation: firstname.lastname@example.org, 437 997 2568
John Hassell, Ontario Nature: email@example.com, 416 786 2171
Shaelyn Wabegijig, Plenty Canada: firstname.lastname@example.org, 705 238 8895
Planet Earth is a shared home for humans and millions of other species, and our fates and well-being are interdependent. Yet, as a result of unsustainable human activity, global wildlife populations have, on average, declined in size by 60 per cent since the 1970s. We are now in the throes of the largest mass extinction since the disappearance of the dinosaurs more than 65 million years ago.
In response to this crisis of biodiversity loss, the Government of Ontario passed a new Endangered Species Act in 2007, with support from all parties. Deemed to be a gold standard in species at risk legislation at the time, this law is now under review.
In response to this review, we the undersigned agree and confirm that:
- All life is interconnected. Human needs are not separate from the needs of species at risk. Their persistence and recovery are integral to the health of the province, the country and the planet.
- All humans share the responsibility to care for the natural world that sustains us. This responsibility extends back from our ancestors and forwards to future generations;
- This responsibility predated contact and was recognized at the Treaty of Niagara in 1764, when the British Crown and over 2500 Indigenous representatives solemnly proclaimed their commitment to sharing the land based on both British Common law and the Indigenous legal systems in ceremonies before the Creator. Protecting and recovering species at risk is part of living up to this shared responsibility.
- This responsibility was also confirmed by the world at the Earth Summit in 1992 under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, to which Canada is a signatory. In 2010, parties to the convention agreed to prevent the extinction of threatened species and to sustain and improve their conservation status by 2020.
- The persistence and recovery of at-risk species depend upon the protection and restoration of the ecosystems that support them. Habitat loss is the primary driver of extinction.
- There are limits to the Earth’s capacity to sustain human activity. We must recognize these limits and manage human activities with respect for all life, so that all species can thrive, and none is driven towards extinction.
- The ever-rising number of species at risk in Ontario underlines the need to change our approaches to using and managing our lands and waters. We must learn to steward and share these places with the plants and animals that depend on them.
- The development and implementation of recovery strategies for species at risk must include Indigenous Peoples and their ceremonies and practices, which are millennia-old methodologies for maintaining species abundance and cultural responsibilities associated with natural law.
Margaret Atwood | Writer
Jeff Beaver | TEK Advisor/Manager
Rick Beaver | Artist, Ecologist
Marilyn Capreol | Grandmother, knowledge keeper
Derek Coronado | Coordinator, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario
Chris Craig | Senior Forestry Technician, South Nation Conservation, Member of the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan
Amber Ellis | Executive Director, Earthroots
David Flood, RPF | Member, Matachewan First Nation
Jack Gibbons | Chair, North Gwillimbury Forest Alliance
Graeme Gibson | Writer
Graham Greene | Actor
Meagan Hamilton | B.E.S., M.A., Can-CISEC, Indigetech Inc. Environmental Consulting, Member of Six Nations
Sarah Harmer | Musician
Richard W. Hill | Tuscarora, Beaver Clan, educator
Steve Hounsell | Chair, Ontario Biodiversity Council
Deb Pella Keen | Senior Advisor, Plenty Canada
Stephen Lewis | Former Canadian Ambassador to the UN
Henry Lickers | Environmental Science Officer, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne
Gordon Lightfoot | Musician
Dr. Dan Roronhiakewen Longboat | Turtle Clan, Mohawk Nation, Grand River Territory; Professor and IESS Director, Trent University
Deborah Martin-Downs | Chief Administrative Officer, Credit Valley Conservation; Chair, Green Infrastructure Ontario Coalition
Larry McDermott | Executive Director, Plenty Canada
Janet McKay | Executive Director, LEAF (Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests)
Miptoon (Anthony Chegahno) | Neyaashiinigmiing, Project Manager, Species at Risk
Eugenia Ochoa | Public Engagement Coordinator, Ontario Council for Cooperation
Michael Ondaatje | Writer
Justin Peter | Director, Quest Nature Tours
David Pritchard | Co-Founder, Birds and Beans Inc.
Peggy Pyke-Thompson | Environment Program Manager, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne
Lorraine Rekmans | Member of Serpent River First Nation, Indigenous Affairs Critic, Green Party of Canada
Graham Saul | Executive Director, Nature Canada
Caroline Schultz | Executive Director, Ontario Nature
M.A. (Peggy) Smith | Miskwaanakwadook (Red Cloud Woman), R.P.F. (Ret.), Professor Emerita, Faculty of Natural Resources Management, Lakehead University
David Suzuki | Scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation
Shaelyn Wabegijig | Timiskaming First Nation, Caribou Clan, Project Manager, Plenty Canada
Peigi Wilson | President, Plenty Canada