Adjusting our Care for Endangered Species

May 24, 2019 | Brenda Dyack

Adjusting our Care for Endangered Species

The government of Ontario has proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act, 2007, updating it to reflect current public priorities. The changes are extensive and have drawn many responses from the public and various organizations, including the CFFO.

In our response, CFFO focused on the government’s intent to “streamline approvals and provide clarity to support economic development.” We are concerned these changes risk downplaying important social and environmental outcomes for the province. The proposed changes prioritize short-run economic development and developer profitability goals at the expense of long-run stewardship of our shared scarce resources, including species that are at risk or already endangered.

We challenged the sensibility of simply paying a fee, as is proposed for developers, to make way for economic development at the cost of habitat loss. Furthermore, we noted our concern about the apparent intention to speed decisions via Ministerial discretion, even without scientific evidence.

Wherever we might sit on the spectrum of how best to exist alongside the Lord’s many creatures, it is always a challenge to find agreement with others and enshrine common goals in law. The fact is that we cannot exist on this land without having negative impacts on the land and other living species.

As Christian farmers, CFFO members adhere to the fundamental principle of good stewardship, and our faith guides us to seek the best possible actions. CFFO members are committed to our God-given responsibility to steward all resources, and CFFO’s policy is to promote economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable farming.

When it comes to the law, however, whatever any of us is allowed to do – or required to do – to protect endangered species or species at risk is up to the government. As voters, we give the government the responsibility – the duty of care – to uphold what we believe to be good practice and to make sure our laws reflect this.

Times change, of course. People alter what they care about, and scientific understanding of our impact on the natural world improves. This means our laws must change as well. Still, we are not convinced that Ontarians have altered their core commitment to endangered species, despite inconveniences we face when our development desires conflict with protecting creation.

CFFO is calling on government to reflect our core values. This means that instead of weakening protections for vulnerable species that deserve stewardship, the government must more creatively design effective means of supporting economic growth, without compromising important habitat.

Brenda Dyack is Executive Director and Acting Director of Research & Policy for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, and CKNX Wingham. It is also archived on the CFFO website, CFFO is supported by 4,000 family farmers across Ontario.