Species at Risk Act
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The Species at Risk Act (SARA) is a piece of Canadian federal legislation which became law in Canada on December 12, 2002. It is designed to meet one of Canada's key commitments under the International Convention on Biological Diversity. The goal of the Act is to protect endangered or threatened organisms and their habitats. It also manages species which are not yet threatened, but whose existence or habitat is in jeopardy.
SARA defines a method to determine the steps that need to be taken in order to help protect existing relatively healthy environments, as well as recover threatened habitats. It identifies ways in which governments, organizations, and individuals can work together to preserve species at risk and establishes penalties for failure to obey the law.
The Act designates COSEWIC, an independent committee of wildlife experts and scientists, to identify threatened species and assess their conservation status. COSEWIC then issues a report to the government, and the Minister of the Environment evaluates the committee's recommendations when considering the addition of a species to the List of Wildlife Species at Risk.
In July 2016, SARA was used by the Federal Government of Canada to expropriate 2 km2 of private property on the South Shore (Montreal), Quebec, under an emergency order to protect the Western Chorus Frog.
The emergency order stopped the construction of 171 new residences that were already approved for construction by the local municipalities and by the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks (Quebec).
The developer had received authorization to move ahead on the project from the Quebec Environment Ministry, having set aside 50 percent of the land, 87.7 acres, for Western Chorus Frog habitat and breeding ponds and for a conservation area.
This use of SARA, to expropriate private property without compensation, is unprecedented in Canadian history and establishes a de facto legal precedent, currently unchallenged in courts, and creates uncertainty over the security and stability of private property rights in Canada.
On November 14, 2002, when SARA draft legislation was still under public consultation, the issue of Federal Government expropriation and partial expropriation, or takings, of private property without compensation was actively discussed and debated with the public. The Ontario Property and Environmental Rights Alliance (OPERA) made the following statement in their written brief to the Senate Committee:
"OPERA shares with all Canadians a sense of shock and foreboding that legislation purporting to represent the best interests of all endangered species, plant, animal and private landowner, includes a judicial license to parachute into the list of specific financial and imprisonment penalties the added sanction of public humiliation and economic ruin."
- Link To Copy of The Act
- SARA Homepage
- Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada website
- Species at Risk website