Protection of endangered species | Experts call on Quebec for a major overhaul

Lack of transparency, lack of “accountability”, outdated laws and almost non-existent political will. Scientists who advise the Minister of the Environment to ensure the protection of threatened species are recommending a major revision of Quebec’s legislative framework, which has become completely ineffective.


Posted at 1:02 a.m.

Updated at 6:00 a.m.

A harsh criticism

Five of the six members of the Advisory Committee on threatened or vulnerable wildlife species in Quebec have just published an article in the scientific journal FACETS, official publication of the Royal Society of Canada. The text harshly criticizes the numerous failures of the Quebec government to protect its threatened species and proposes “nine urgent recommendations to make conservation efforts for species in precarious situations on Quebec territory more effective.” The signatories are Fanie Pelletier, Pierre Dumont, Joanie Van de Walle, Daniel Jauvin and David Rodrigue, all appointed by the Minister of the Environment, Benoit Charette, in 2022.

” Nothing has changed “

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PHOTO FRANÇOIS ROY, LA PRESSE ARCHIVES

Biologist David Rodrigue is one of the members of the Advisory Committee on Threatened or Vulnerable Wildlife Species in Quebec.

For the biologist David Rodrigue, this text in FACETS, and its nine recommendations, is in some ways a final attempt to get things moving in the Quebec government. Despite some announcements made by Quebec at the time of COP15 on biodiversity, which was held in Montreal in December 2022, he judges that there is still an absence of political will to protect vulnerable species. There is also an ineffective legislative framework that the Legault government seems in no hurry to modernize, he emphasizes. “We exposed some problems publicly in 2022 and the government reacted. But we came back to the same point, we didn’t change anything fundamentally,” notes David Rodrigue.

Problems of transparency and “accountability”

“Three of the main obstacles to the protection of wildlife species in precarious situations in Quebec are the lack of transparency, the slowness of the designation process and the lack of accountability of the minister responsible for the decisions relating to this process,” write the authors of the article entitled “Quebec legislative framework for the protection of wild species in precarious situations: evaluation, criticism and recommendations for a major revision”. While at the federal level, the recommendations of the committees responsible for advising the government are public, the process is completely opaque in Quebec. The committee’s recommendations are transmitted to the responsible deputy minister, who can accept or refuse them without any justification or public communication, it is reported.

Take inspiration from the federal model

If the scientists’ first recommendation targets transparency, the second attacks the minister’s lack of accountability. Indeed, Minister Benoit Charette currently has no obligation to officially designate a species as threatened or vulnerable following a recommendation from his committee. At the federal level, the responsible minister has nine months to make his decision, failing which the recommendation of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) is officially deployed. Stricter legal deadlines are also required in Quebec for the designation of species, it is argued. We also suggest an in-depth review of the Threatened or Vulnerable Species Actof the Law on the conservation and development of wildlife and the resulting regulations.

A “major contrast” between Quebec and Ottawa

According to David Rodrigue and Fanie Pelletier, professor in the biology department at the University of Sherbrooke, transparency is the key element of any reform of the mechanisms for protecting threatened species in Quebec. “I have been a member of COSEWIC for several years and there is a major contrast between Quebec and the federal government,” says M.me Pelletier. But Quebec could quickly change the situation in terms of transparency, she says. “We don’t need to change the law for that. It could happen tomorrow with political will. » For the two experts, what happens next risks influencing their decision whether or not to continue their work on the advisory committee. “If nothing changes, they will have trouble finding people [pour siéger au comité] », says Fanie Pelletier.

Read the article by FACETS and its nine recommendations

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