A Humpback whale breaks the surface as it heads south to Antarctica for the summer.

After a legal victory earlier this year for B.C.’s resident orcas, Greenpeace is once again looking to the courts to force the protection of endangered and threatened species in Canada. This fall, Ecojustice, on behalf of five environmental organizations, including Greenpeace, filed another litigation challenging the federal government’s continued failure to fulfill its legal responsibility to protect at-risk species listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA). To add a twist, these species call the proposed Enbridge proposed Northern Gateway pipeline route home.

 Four at-risk species are highlighted in the lawsuit: the Pacific humpback whale, the Nechako white sturgeon, the marbled murrelet and the southern mountain caribou. Under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), the federal government is required to develop recovery strategies for these, and all, endangered and threatened species. But the plans are currently three years overdue and, therefore, are putting these animals at further risk.

The sad reality is that this situation is not unique to these animals. In addition to these four species, 184 other at-risk species find themselves with no recovery strategy in place, and 87 are over five years overdue. Our hope is that this litigation will force a sense of urgency that should be already evident given these species’ listing under SARA in the first place.


A convenient delay

 A key part of putting in place a recovery strategy for these animals is to identify critical areas of their habitat. In fact, loss of habitat is the main cause of decline for over 80 per cent of Canada’s species at risk. The four species discussed in this case are found along the route of the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline, a massive project that will carry toxic tar sands oil from Alberta to a supertanker port in Kitimat on the coast of British Columbia. 

When it comes to determining the potential impacts of the pipeline project through an environment assessment, not having the critical habitats mapped out for these species means they need not be taken into consideration. In the federal government’s push to fast-track these types of dangerous projects, and given the likely negative impacts that will occur from this project, not having recovery plans in place is, for them, a convenient oversight.


Continuing the battle to protect our ecosystems

 For years, Greenpeace has been working to protect the habitat of these and other animals along our coast through our Great Bear Rainforest campaign and Stop the Pipeline campaign. While in the past we have sought to pressure governments and corporations to consider the health of our planet over short-term profit, this time our ask is simpler – obey the law.

Sure, we’ve probably seen the inside of the court room more often as defendants, when our courageous activists have stood in the way of environmental destruction, but, this time, the feds are on the other side of the law, not standing up for the environment, but standing against it.

 Help us stand up for species at risk. Take Action by signing the petition urging the government to enforce Canada's national endangered species law, without weakening its requirements. Stay tuned for profiles on each of the at-risk species featured in this case.