I don't know about you, but normally when I hear about a government being taken to court for not obeying the laws of the land, it's not usually while they are still in power. But that's what's happening to Prime Minister Steven Harper's Conservative Party of Canada government.
I'm not talking about some nuisance suit or personal vendetta brought about by a vindictive ex-politician with an axe to grind. This is a genuine suit aimed at forcing the government to live up to the letter of the law when it comes to the protection of endangered species. According to the Sierra Legal Defence Fund of Canada – who is bringing the suit against the minister of the environment – the government, and specifically the Minister of the Environment Rona Ambrose, is reneging on the most essential part of the legislation — the protection of a species' habitat.
While the Species At Risk Act not only makes provisos for protecting an animal or plant that is considered under severe threat, it also demands that its habitat be designated as critical to their survival. Many animals and plants depend upon a very specific ecosystem for survival and this designation guarantees complete protection from human incursion, preserving an area's integrity and its ability to sustain the species in question.
The impact that a failure to protect habitats would have upon wildlife and the environment (in both the Artic and North America) is almost too severe to imagine. Already we are hearing reports of polar bears starving to death due to their inability to hunt during the summer season because of the thinning ice pack. One can imagine only too well what will happen to their population in the far North if the predictions for the next thirty years follow the patterns predicted by these scientists.
Given these circumstances and others around the world, protection of habitant becomes more and more essential not just as a means for specific species preservation, but as a means of ensuring environmental integrity. Knowing this, it makes the Canadian government seem even more negligent for not complying with the act. They don't even deny the fact that only five of the last thirty recovery plans for endangered species have included habitat protection. Three of those plans are in areas that were already established as protected. The government's excuse that there are many interested parties in the land doesn't wash at all.
In fact, I would think that since people have "vested interests" in the land, this would be a clue to the necessity of designating critical habitats in an area. If so many people have a "vested interest" it means someone is going to want to do something with the land. If this is allowed to happen, then the animals supposedly under protection will have a much less chance of recovery due to the degradation of their environment.
I remember reading an interview with the late Gerald Durrell, the British Naturalist and Conservationist. In this article, Durrell talked about how some governments pay lip service to the idea of endangered species preservation with laws that are meaningless. Unless governments are prepared to ensure the survival of the habitat by making it part of the law, the paper it is written on would be better off used in an outhouse.
There have been many times when I have disagreed with various decisions regarding government policy. I usually consider that par for the course. However, when a government enacts legislation that makes them look good on paper (and in the papers), but it doesn't really do anything then it is an entirely different matter. It suggests they don't have the integrity or the balls to stand up for their own beliefs and are further compelled to sneak around behind everyone's back.
We aren't the only inhabitants of this world. We share it with numerous other living organisms. However, compared to our neighbours, we use up a disproportionate amount of space and energy. Occasionally they do intrude upon us but it's usually only if we've built right on top of their homes or in their territory. More often than not, they are the ones who either learn to adjust or move.
Wouldn't it would be nice if, on occasion, we humans returned that favour? What if we left their homes alone so that they could get on with the business of living without having to worry about being shot or having contaminated drinking water?
Canada is one of the few countries in the world that has an endangered species program that if properly implemented, would allow endangered animals and plants the opportunity to recover. Unfortunately, our government doesn’t seem to want to live up to their obligation when it comes to this act and would be perfectly content with never protecting another square inch of habitat.
They are the loudest complainers when it comes to the courts of Canada "ruling the country instead of the legislature". If they ever learn how to obey the laws of the country or understand the constitution then it wouldn't be such a problem. When the courts up hold the law of the land one more time and find against the government, maybe Steven Harper and the Conservatives will finally learn the difference between right and wrong.