Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Groups Seek Court Clout to Force Federal Action on Environmental Laws

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Groups Seek Court Clout to Force Federal Action on Environmental Laws

Article excerpt

Court clout sought over environmental laws


VANCOUVER - The federal government has violated Canadian law by failing to protect endangered species, a coalition of environmental groups told a Federal Court judge on Wednesday.

The groups say the environment and fisheries ministers have delayed final recovery strategies for four critically endangered species well past mandatory deadlines set out in the Species At Risk Act.

The coalition wants the judge to declare the delays "unlawful" and order those recovery plans.

"We're not before you this morning to talk about a minor or technical breach of the statute. We're not here a week or two after the deadlines have passed," Sean Nixon, the lawyer for Ecojustice, told Justice Anne MacTavish.

"We're here four or six years, depending on the species, after the mandatory deadlines."

The court action filed by Ecojustice on behalf of the Wilderness Committee, Sierra Club, David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace and Wildsight, cites the Pacific humpback whale, the Nechako white sturgeon, the marbled murrelet and the southern mountain caribou.

At the time the lawsuit was filed in late 2012, the final recovery strategies for these four species were between four and six years overdue.

All four species named in the court action are affected by oil and gas expansion plans in British Columbia and Alberta, in particular the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal, the groups said.

Last fall, after the federal review panel weighing the Northern Gateway stopped hearing evidence, Fisheries Minister Gail Shea published a final recovery strategy for the Pacific humpback whale.

In December, the ministry published a draft recovery strategy for the Nechako white sturgeon and the draft plan for the murrelet was published on Tuesday, the eve of the hearing.

Brian McLaughlin, the lawyer for the federal government, told MacTavish on Wednesday that the environment minister commits to publishing a draft strategy for southern mountain caribou by Jan. …

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