Ottawa – Canadian provinces and territories failed to meet a key deadline for protecting threatened boreal caribou habitat.
The governments had five years to develop habitat protection plans under Canada’s Species At Risk Act, and no plan have been published yet.
In response, a broad array of stakeholders, including Indigenous leaders, conservationists and scientists, and former government officials, are calling for urgent action to ensure the boreal caribou’s long-term survival.
“The recovery strategy is clear: Less than half of Canada’s caribou populations are likely to survive unless cumulative disturbance is limited,” said Dr. Julee Boan, Boreal Program Manager for Ontario Nature. “Caribou need their critical habitat protected now more than ever.”
Canada’s federal Recovery Strategy for boreal caribou, released in 2012, identified that only 14 out of Canada’s 51 boreal caribou herds were considered self-sustaining at that time. Without intervention, wildlife scientists predict the population will decline even further in the next 15 years, losing up to 30 percent more of the population.
“Enough of the continued failures by governments,” said Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador. “We demand that they abide by the principles of UNDRIP calling for the participation of Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous Peoples always had a close and sacred relationship with the caribou. Any strategy related to conservation of the species will definitely have to include our Peoples and their traditional knowledge, and governments will have to respond appropriately.”
Anthony Swift, Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Canada Project, remarked on the international impacts of Canada’s inaction: “Canada is tarnishing its reputation for sustainable forest products by failing to protect caribou habitat. Now that the provinces have failed to act, Prime Minister Trudeau must now step up to protect one of the world’s last great forests, and with it, some of North America’s most iconic animals and the way of life of hundreds of Indigenous Peoples’ communities.”
The wide array of voices calling for action today further underscores the immediate need for Canada’s federal and provincial leaders to take swift steps to protect this iconic species.