Domesticating the Exotic Species: International Biodiversity Law in Canada

By Affolder, Natasha | McGill Law Journal, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

Domesticating the Exotic Species: International Biodiversity Law in Canada


Affolder, Natasha, McGill Law Journal


While a significant body of international and regional agreements now addresses habitat preservation, wildlife protection, and biological diversity, these advances on the international level often fail to be effectively translated into domestic law. In this article, the author argues that international biodiversity law is being treated in Canada as "exotic". It is peppered into parties' submissions without a principled explanation of its role in Canadian law, receives little consideration from the courts, and must ultimately rely on non-legal means of enforcement.

The author examines jurisprudence dealing with four major biodiversity treaties. She notes that the judicial treatment of these conventions ranges from silence, to declarations of inapplicability, to limited usage in statutory interpretation. This impoverished view of international biodiversity law in Canadian courtrooms is contrasted with the richer understanding of the relevance of this body of law demonstrated by its usage in environmental advocacy campaigns.

The author focuses on two case studies: the 1992-2002 campaign for federal endangered species legislation, and the ongoing Cheviot mine campaign. In these campaigns, compliance with international biodiversity law is pursued through various shaming strategies. The author concludes that both the judiciary and environmental advocacy groups have an important role to play in identifying where Canada fails to give domestic effect to the obligations it assumes under ratified biodiversity treaties, and in addressing this failure.

Meme si un nombre important de traites regionaux et internationaux ont pour objet la preservation de l'habitat, la protection de la nature et de la diversite biologique, ces avancees a l'echelle internationale ne sont pas effectivement retranscrites dans le droit domestique. Dans cet article l'auteur soutient que le droit international sur la biodiversite est considere comme <> au Canada. Ce droit est parseme dans les soumissions des parties sans qu'aucune explication de principe ne soit donnee quant a son role dans le droit canadien. Les tribunaux portent par consequent peu d'attention a ce droit, ce dernier ne dependant ultimement que de mesures non legales pour son execution.

L'auteur examine la jurisprudence liee a quatre traites majeurs sur la biodiversite et remarque que le traitement judiciaire accorde a ces conventions varie du silence, a l'usage limite de 1' interpretation statutaire, a des declarations d' inapplicabilite. Cette approche reductrice des tribunaux canadiens a l'egard du droit international sur la biodiversite est contrastee par une comprehension plus profonde de la pertinence de ce droit par les milieux envirormementaux, ce qui ressort clairement de l'utilisation qui en est faite dans les campagnes de lutte pour la defense de l'environnent.

L'auteur se penche ensuite sur deux etudes de cas : la campagne federale de 1992-2002 sur la loi sur les especes en voie de disparition et la campagne Cheviot sur les mines. Dans ces campagnes, le respect du droit international sur la biodiversite est obtenu par differentes strategies instrumentalisant le sentiment de honte. L'auteur conclut que le milieu judiciaire et les groupes de lutte pour la defense de l'environnement ont un double role a jouer pour determiner pourquoi le Canada ne parvient pas a se conformer a l'echelon domestique aux obligations qu'il a contracte en ratifiant les differents traites sur la biodiversite et comment remedier a cette situation au niveau national.

Introduction

I.  International Biodiversity Law in the Courtroom
    A. The Application of International Law in Canadian Courts
    B. Methodology--Case Selection Criteria
    C. The Cases
       1. Judicial Silence
       2. International Law Is Not Applicable As It Is Not
          Implemented in Canadian Law
       3. Judicial Uncertainty
       4. International Law As An Interpretive Aid in Statutory
          Interpretation
    D. … 

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