A B.C. MP has backed a parliamentary petition calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to introduce legislation to “conserve nature in Canada.”
The petition, sponsored by South Okanagan-West Kootenay NDP MP Richard Cannings, opened last week and has so far garnered 110 citizen signatures.
“This is about keeping the government accountable,” said Cannings in an interview. “It’s way beyond time for no action.”
An estimated one million plant and animal species are now threatened with extinction around the world. Meanwhile in Canada, 160 of the county’s 373 endangered species are found in B.C., giving it the highest count of any province.
The petition calls on Canada’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault to follow through on commitments to introduce a law by 2024 that would enshrine Canadian goals and targets under the Global Biodiversity Framework.
Last year in Montreal, 188 nations signed the framework at the United Nation’s 15th Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
The landmark agreement aims to stop a global extinction crisis by protecting 30 per cent of the planet’s lands and oceans by 2030. Among the framework’s four goals and 23 targets, it also looks to cut food waste in half and protect the rights of Indigenous peoples.
The petition to the House of Commons says Canada has “consistently failed” to meet its past international commitments to protect biological diversity. All the more reason, said Cannings, to hold government accountable for its latest promises.
“Let's have some accountability legislation that outlines how you're going to do that and the steps needed to take so that it doesn't just fall by the wayside,” said Cannings, who is a trained biologist and spent years working with the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
“This is something that was sort of my life before politics.”
Petitions that receive signatures from at least 500 Canadian citizens are eligible to be presented to the House of Commons by any MP. Government is required to respond to successful petitions within 45 days.
Protecting nature has strong support from Canadians, says poll
Measures to protect biodiversity appear to have the support of a strong majority of Canadians. A poll released in December 2022 by Environics on behalf of Greenpeace Canada found 84 per cent of Canadians are at least “somewhat worried” about the future of the planet due to the state of wildlife and nature; another 43 per cent said they were “very worried.”
The survey found 80 per cent of respondents believe the federal government has the responsibility to set an example at the conference by setting “firm commitments” to biodiversity protection. But many of the actions on the ground need to be carried out by provincial governments, who are largely in control of land management regimes.
In May 2023, a Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society report scoring provincial progress to protect biodiversity cited B.C. for making significant progress in protecting land alongside Quebec, Nova Scotia, Yukon and the federal government’s efforts to protect terrestrial ecosystems.
New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador and federal measures to protect marine ecosystems made “some progress” since 2021, according to the report.
The report found three jurisdictions — including Saskatchewan, Alberta and Ontario — made “minimal progress” in protecting nature.