Evidence of meeting #17 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was biodiversity.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Rick Bates  Acting Chief Executive Officer and Executive Vice-President, Canadian Wildlife Federation
Ben Chalmers  Vice-President, Sustainable Development, Mining Association of Canada
Aran O'Carroll  Executive Director, Secretariat, Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement
Kimberly Lisgo  Conservation Planning Team Lead, Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement
Kate Lindsay  Director, Conservation Biology, Forest Products Association of Canada
Linda Nowlan  Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association
David Browne  Director of Conservation, Canadian Wildlife Federation

11:10 a.m.


The Chair (Mrs. Deborah Schulte (King—Vaughan, Lib.)) Liberal Deb Schulte

I call the meeting to order.

We have five great witnesses with us today. We have the Canadian Wildlife Federation, the Mining Association of Canada, the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, the Forest Products Association of Canada, and the West Coast Environmental Law Association by video conference.

Actually, there are a few by video conference.

Some of you have come back after your scheduled appearance was moved last week, so we're going to start with those who are here from last week.

I'm wondering, with agreement from the committee, if we can shorten the witnesses' statements down a bit so that we make sure we have enough time to have a proper discussion with them. I was thinking of moving to eight minutes for witness statements. I know it will rush your statements, but I want to make sure we have a good chance to have time for this.

Is there anyone on committee who would have opposition to my moving to eight minutes on witness statements? Okay, let's make that eight minutes. I have agreement.

The first up will be the Canadian Wildlife Federation. We have Rick Bates, the acting chief executive officer and executive vice-president, and David Browne, the director of conservation.

It's all yours. Welcome.

11:10 a.m.

Rick Bates Acting Chief Executive Officer and Executive Vice-President, Canadian Wildlife Federation

Thank you.

First I'd like to point out that the timing of this conversation is very auspicious. It is now 100 years since the signing of the Migratory Birds Convention Act between Canada and the U.S. It's also the 100-year anniversary of the creation of the first migratory bird sanctuary, which was done at Last Mountain Lake, Saskatchewan, very close to my home in Regina.

Canada's first national park in Banff was created in 1885, but despite that early start, we're still far from achieving conservation goals, such as Aichi target 11, so today we will make three recommendations and some subpoints within each recommendation.

The three general recommendations are, first, that Canada urgently needs an implementation strategy to achieve the Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi target 11 of protecting 17% of Canada's land and fresh water and 10% of our coastal and marine areas by 2020. Second, Canada must also continue to work to support other countries in achieving their biodiversity targets, especially those countries within our hemisphere and those with which we share migratory wildlife. Third, an important role of protected areas is to maintain these great areas and to share these great areas with Canadians as a way to maintain support for ongoing work to meet protected areas objectives.

In terms of recommendation one, the implementation strategy, Canada has a lot of work ahead of it to meet those targets. Without complicating it a whole lot, I'll just say that what we're doing hasn't been working. An important part of the reason we haven't met these goals is weak political commitment. That's your job, and we hope and expect you will make this a priority going forward.

For Canada to reach these targets, we need to be creative and flexible in using the existing tools and if necessary in developing new ones to help achieve biodiversity goals.

Tools like migratory bird sanctuaries and national wildlife areas provide a bit more flexibility in that they are quicker to negotiate and easier to establish, and they can be focused on small areas of critical importance to a single species or for multiple species. Bird sanctuaries can be located on private land. The Species at Risk Act includes provisions to provide incentives to landowners for habitat conservation, though these need to be applied more often. National wildlife areas do not exclude traditional activities such as hunting, trapping, and fishing. These tools can be more easily tailored to meet the needs of specific communities, interest groups, and local landowners.

Greater flexibility may be needed in these individual tools, such as provisions to provide incentives to landowners for habitat conservation or to allow for compatible multiple uses in some tools that don't presently allow those things. This type of flexibility will allow for more creativity in meeting overall conservation goals but will be particularly important in conserving small areas that may be critical to conserve biodiversity in areas of intensive agriculture or urban development to address connectivity needs, to maintain ecosystem services such as pollination, or to maintain quality of such key habitat areas as rivers and streams.

Programs to plan, negotiate, and establish these types of areas will also need to be adequately resourced to achieve our goals.

It will also be important to align conservation objectives with the Paris agreement on climate change guidance to include long-term adaptation to build resilience into national climate change plans.

For example, fresh water is the most important resource in the world. It provides habitat for a wide range of species and water supplies for communities and industry, but impacts of climate change are putting increasing pressure on it. We therefore encourage the committee to set targets specifically for conservation of important freshwater rivers, wetlands, and lakes, and the biodiversity associated with them. We appreciate that this has many challenges, so this will be another area where creativity and flexibility are critical.

A point to consider when looking at targets is that many countries appear to be just now heading towards setting fresh water conservation goals. South Africa is one of the first, and it has a fresh water conservation target of 20% for each freshwater ecosystem. The federal government is currently undertaking a review of the Fisheries Act and its related policy. This presents an opportunity to commit to enhanced fresh water and marine biodiversity conservation targets and to the tools to achieve them, such as the designation of ecologically significant areas under the Fisheries Act.

Our second recommendation is to support other countries in achieving their biodiversity targets. It's important to remember that wildlife doesn't recognize political boundaries. While our work here to meet conservation targets is important, unless other countries that our wildlife migrates to also protect important habitats, we will lose some of our biodiversity.

Canada is a very fortunate nation in the world. We have an important role in working with and supporting less fortunate countries in the management of local habitats to achieve biodiversity goals. Parks Canada does some important work on behalf of Canada and the World Parks Commission and with the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It is very important that this work continue to be supported, particularly with countries in our hemisphere, or we may achieve our local targets of protected area but lose the larger battle, the real purpose of these targets in the first place, which is to conserve our biodiversity. There may be opportunity for the global affairs department to co-operate in supporting objectives of this type.

Our third recommendation is to establish objectives to share these great areas with Canadians. In addition to the obvious economic, environmental, social, and cultural benefits, time outdoors also helps to improve student academic performance and contributes to personal health. Parks Canada should be congratulated on its work for the IUCN's Nature for All initiative, which encourages and supports getting people outdoors. Establishing targets and metrics on the participation and impact of this work would also help align biodiversity conservation with a broader range of government objectives, such as health, education, tourism, and youth, which is a priority of Prime Minister Trudeau.

Thank you to the group for our time. We at the Canadian Wildlife Federation, and our 300,000 supporters across the country, look forward to seeing the committee's action items following this review.

11:15 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you very much for coming back and sharing that with us. Thank you for being brief. I appreciate it.

We're going to hear from all the speakers before we start asking questions.

Next is Ben Chalmers, with the Mining Association of Canada.

Welcome, Ben.

11:15 a.m.

Ben Chalmers Vice-President, Sustainable Development, Mining Association of Canada

Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee, for the opportunity to speak here today.

The Mining Association of Canada, MAC, is the national organization representing Canadian mining. We represent all major commodity types of mining in Canada, including base metals, precious metals, iron ore, uranium, diamonds, metallurgical coal, and mined oil sands.

Our industry is active across all of Canada, and I want you to keep in mind a couple of points as I go through my remarks today.

First, while exploration activity covers a wide area, it tends to have minimal impact. Once a mine is developed, the impact is more significant, but it is across a very small part of the land base. Second, there are clear opportunities to use land held by mining companies around active mine sites to help achieve wildlife goals, including the recovery of endangered species, as not all land in mining leases is used for active mining operations.

Our members strive to contribute to building a strong, sustainable, and internationally competitive industry. An important means for us to do so is through our Towards Sustainable Mining initiative, or TSM for short. TSM is a set of performance indicators that require mines to report on social and environmental performance in several areas, including biodiversity, and then have those results independently verified and publicly reported.

As past of TSM, we espouse our values for conservation of biodiversity and species protection. Among our TSM indicators are three indicators focused on biodiversity conservation. Part of our commitment here includes respecting protected areas, including world heritage sites and parks, and working with communities to identify important biodiversity aspects that need to be managed.

Once we have done that, some of the indicators we measure are about setting good practice standards for biodiversity conservation. Examples of what is considered good practice include making a public commitment to biodiversity values by each company at the facility or mine site level. Companies are also obliged to engage with key communities of interest, including government, aboriginal communities, and conservation organizations, to understand what elements of biodiversity are important for them to conserve. Examples of these would include endangered species, keystone or indicator species, and culturally significant species. Once those are identified, the facilities are obligated to put in place mechanisms to assess the impacts of their operations and implement mitigation and compensation measures to address those impacts. Then there are public reporting obligations that go along with that. All of this can be found in our annual TSM progress report.

I want to highlight a couple of examples out of many, and some of the things our companies are doing around conservation.

First, in 2014, Teck Resources purchased approximately 7,150 hectares of private lands in the Elk Valley and Flathead River Valley as part of conservation efforts, representing one of the largest conservation investments in British Columbia history. This protected land provides important habitat for numerous species, such as grizzly bear, wolverine, badger, elk, lynx, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, westslope cutthroat trout, and bull trout. This land is also culturally significant for the Ktunaxa first nation and local communities.

Another B.C. example is New Gold's New Afton mine, which has been working with the University of Guelph and Thompson Rivers University to deploy innovative genomics tools for DNA mapping and bar-coding. Through this work, they have managed to identify a minimum of five new species of spider, which have now been added to the provincial registry. This has also helped them build a tool for a more accurate and timely assessment of the quality of their reclamation work to allow them to make adjustments in quicker order.

Another example is the Diavik diamond mine and the Ekati diamond mine, which have been using a similar DNA approach to map and monitor grizzly bear populations in the north.

MAC was involved in the very early days of the development of the federal Species at Risk Act, and it continued to be involved through participation in the Species at Risk Advisory Committee up until its disbandment in 2014. We support the government's efforts to conserve species and SARA's objectives to foster stewardship and collaboration on the ground.

We do, however, have a few concerns about the way in which SARA has been implemented and some of the potential impacts on our industry.

We are seeing several mining projects facing SARA-related barriers during the federal environmental assessment process. The narrow application of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 means that mining projects are held to account for cumulative effects on species and habitat caused by ongoing non-mining activities that are not subject to the same environmental assessment standards and not prohibited by SARA, because they are on provincial crown land.

SARA obliges projects undergoing federal assessment to comply with SARA and all relevant species recovery strategies, but without long-term compliance and permitting mechanisms, it is not clear how a proponent can demonstrate compliance.

There's a need for effective policy tools that would allow Environment and Climate Change Canada to recognize mitigation measures for proponents, which would allow projects to proceed through EA. For example, finalizing the critical habitat effective protection policy would be helpful. Implementation of conservation agreements, as laid out in section 11 of the act, is one of the few options under the act with a potential to reconcile the challenges of EA and, at the same time, recovering species, using tools beyond the protection of critical habitat.

In order to realize the potential of these agreements, one of the most important actions that could be taken to facilitate project approvals would be developing a template for conservation agreements using CEAA decision statements as a place to enshrine mitigation measures for affected species.

We're also concerned about the capacity of the government to effectively implement SARA.

For example, Environment and Climate Change Canada's efforts to work through the backlog of outstanding recovery species and action plans in the absence of adequate capacity is spreading resources too thinly to realize the effective recovery of species.

Strategies are often released without the necessary research being completed, particularly in identifying and defining critical habitat. There's been an overreliance on the protection of critical habitat, when it is defined, regardless of the actual threats to the industry, and it's imperative that the recovery planning processes be supported by sound science and that decisions be informed by the best available information. As one example, during a recent review that we conducted of recovery strategies for three bat species, we found that a statement related to the potential threat of the mining industry came from an anonymous reference on a web blog comment forum, and the statement proved to be erroneous.

Recovery strategies are developed without regard to the practical costs or implications of socio-economic needs, local communities, or other species. Those burdens on rural communities are without evidence that the current recovery strategies are affecting species recovery. As more recovery strategies are developed, it is becoming evident that a species-by-species approach can create pitfalls in cases where species share ranges but have different habitat requirements. A good example is the contrasting assessment of the impact of fire suppression on caribou and the olive-sided flycatcher. We expect more of these conflicts as more strategies are developed.

We would very much like to see the reinstatement of the species at risk advisory committee. We feel it's an important multi-stakeholder body that can help inform the practical application and implementation of SARA. We also further encourage the government to continue to work with provincial and territorial governments, as this is a shared area of jurisdiction.

Thank you.

11:20 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you very much.

Again, thank you for shortening your comments to make sure we get everyone in.

Mr. O'Carroll, you are with the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. You are here with Kimberly as well. You're up. Go ahead, please.

11:20 a.m.

Aran O'Carroll Executive Director, Secretariat, Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement

Thank you, Madam Chair. Thank you, committee members.

I must say that over the last two attendances at your sessions, seeing you sprinting into this room twice gives me a new appreciation for the demands on parliamentarians. Thank you for all you do.

Again, my name is Aran O'Carroll. I'm the executive director of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement. This is an initiative working with over 30 organizations in the Canadian forest industry, in the Canadian conservation community, and in the marketplace, both in the United States and globally, on solutions to integrate the environment and the economy.

We work on six specific goals, ranging from forest practices to action on climate change to species at risk, sectoral and community prosperity, and marketplace engagement.

Our sixth goal is on protected areas. Ms. Kim Lisgo, who is joining us via video conference, is our conservation planning team leader. She's in Whitehorse, deep in the Yukon.

I'm going to turn this presentation over to her. She's going to take you through some remarkable work we've been doing in looking at the science of gap analysis across Canada's boreal forest.

11:25 a.m.

Kimberly Lisgo Conservation Planning Team Lead, Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement

Thank you.

11:25 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Carry on, Kim.

11:25 a.m.

Conservation Planning Team Lead, Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement

Kimberly Lisgo

Thank you very much, Aran.

The work I'm going to present to you today was led by the BEACONs project in collaboration with the CBFA. BEACONs is a collaborative research project with academics from the University of Alberta, Laval, Memorial, and Simon Fraser University. Many of the concepts and methods I will speak to were developed with the support of Environment Canada.

Before I dive into the assessment, I will provide some background on this work.

Protected areas have been established for a number of reasons, but I'll focus on conservation planning. To date, protected areas have been the primary tool used by conservation planners to conserve biodiversity. Much effort has been dedicated to design efforts, yet despite these efforts, biodiversity continues to decline, which raises the question of why.

There are a number of reasons that protected areas can fail to achieve biodiversity objectives, and I'll speak to three.

The first is the use of policy-based targets. Given their lack of biological foundation, they have a high likelihood of failure with regard to maintaining biodiversity.

The sole reliance on protected areas for conservation action often leads to the erosion of landscape surrounding protected areas. If protected areas are not well designed, the effects of human development can infiltrate and negatively impact the ability of the protected area to conserve biodiversity.

So what does this mean for biodiversity conservation?

Within the CBFA there is recognition that protected areas have an important role to play in maintaining biodiversity, but that protected area networks alone will not conserve biodiversity and that all elements on the landscape have a role to play.

For example, as illustrated in the figure to the right, large-scale processes such as the movement of wide-ranging species such as caribou often extend well beyond protected area boundaries. How we manage landscapes around protected areas is just as important as how we manage within.

By managing these landscapes carefully, we can maintain functioning ecosystems throughout and have flexibility when responding to unexpected events. In other words, we plan proactively rather than reactively, which requires the application of ecologically sustainable land use practices.

Identifying sustainable land use practices can be a challenge, given a number of uncertainties: our knowledge of ecosystems is incomplete, the response of biodiversity to human development is largely unknown, and climate change compounds the issue.

However, rather than ignore this uncertainty, we can address it head-on by treating human development as an experiment. This requires controls and monitoring. Without controls, we cannot distinguish the effects of human development from climate change. We refer to these control areas as ecological benchmarks.

Ecological benchmarks are controls for understanding boreal systems and the response of biodiversity to management practices. Benchmarks are protected areas designed to be functional systems in and of themselves, with design specifications based on the best available science. They are designed to be large, intact, resilient to natural disturbances such as fire, and they capture both terrestrial and aquatic systems.

So how does the experiment work?

In this illustration, the matrix in brown represents the spaces between protected areas. Within the matrix we have a forest tenure outlined in blue where we would like to undertake sustainable land use.

If we detect a population decline within the tenure, we do not know if the decline is due to forestry practices or an external influence. However, if we add ecological benchmarks, we now have an experiment.

11:30 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Kimberly, just to interrupt you briefly, I need to make the committee aware that the bells just started ringing, which means we have 30 minutes to get back in the House for a vote.

I was wondering if all of you were willing to just stay about 15 minutes. I think we can make it back. Is that cutting it too tight? They just started ringing, so we're going to go for another 15 minutes.

11:30 a.m.


Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

I think we should leave about five minutes ahead of the Conservatives.

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

11:30 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Let's get back to the witness statements. Please carry on, Kimberly. Ignore the back-and-forth here. You have our full attention. Please carry on.

11:30 a.m.

Conservation Planning Team Lead, Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement

Kimberly Lisgo

Thank you.

The point I was getting to is that if we add ecological benchmarks, we now have en experiment.

If the population declines in both the tenure and the ecological benchmarks, the decline is due to external influences such as climate change, rather than the forestry practices. However, if the population declines in a tenure only, then can we draw the conclusion that the forestry practices are not ecologically sustainable and they must be adapted.

To support the protection of biodiversity and the identification of sustainable land use practices, the CBFA has committed itself to the establishment of ecological benchmarks and the implementation of adaptive management. To this end, the CBFA has supported the BEACONs project in undertaking a pan-boreal assessment of existing and proposed protected areas.

The pan-boreal assessment has two primary components. The first is the evaluation of protected areas with regard to the representation of 25 biodiversity surrogates, which includes biophysical features, freshwater systems, songbirds, and species at risk. The second component is the identification of ecological benchmarks, which starts with the evaluation of existing protected areas and the identification of new areas.

The tool overall is flexible, and additional data sets can be easily incorporated. It is a decision support tool that can be used to evaluate protected areas and conservation proposals, including indigenous conservation areas.

Now I'll share some of the results with you.

I'm not sure if the slides are advancing are not, but hopefully they are. This figure highlights in black—

11:30 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

We're keeping up with you.

11:30 a.m.

Conservation Planning Team Lead, Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement

Kimberly Lisgo

—protected areas with the ability to function as ecological benchmarks. Regions in the boreal, highlighted in dark green, are adequately benchmarked by existing protected areas. Regions in lighter green have protected area benchmarks, but they are not sufficient, and additional benchmarks are needed. Areas shown in grey do not have benchmarks.

11:30 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Kimberly, you have one minute to just wrap it up, if you don't mind.

11:30 a.m.

Conservation Planning Team Lead, Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement

Kimberly Lisgo

Okay. Thank you. I'll just wrap it up with this last slide, then.

The following slide illustrates an example of the application of the pan-boreal assessment tools and concepts in the Saskatchewan River delta. The CBFA planning exercise involved direct engagement with the Saskatchewan government, including alignment with provincial protected area initiatives and conservation objectives, such as the protection of species at risk.

The conservation matrix model and the concepts within the pan-boreal assessment have been applied elsewhere, including the Ontario far north and Plan Nord in Quebec, as well as through collaborative work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in designing benchmarks in Alaska, Yukon, B.C., and the Northwest Territories.

In conclusion, the pan-boreal assessment and the underlying conservation matrix model is a decision support tool that can assist with the design of a protected areas network for Canada. By expanding the role of protected areas to include ecological benchmarks, we can plan proactively, address uncertainty head on, and identify truly sustainable land use practices.

Thank you.

11:30 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Kimberly, thank you very much to both you and Aran.

We really appreciate it. We do have these presentation slides in our possession, and now we have a better understanding of what the slides are trying tell us. Thank you for that.

We're going to try to hear from one more witness. These are the four witnesses we had to put off last time, and we'll try to make sure that we hear from them today.

Up next is the Forest Products Association of Canada. Kate Lindsay, you can go ahead, please, for eight minutes; that's the maximum we have before we have to go.

Thank you.

11:30 a.m.

Kate Lindsay Director, Conservation Biology, Forest Products Association of Canada

Thank you for the invitation.

I am here today representing the Forest Products Association of Canada, or FPAC, which is the voice of Canada's wood, pulp, and paper producers.

The forest sector employs more than 230,000 Canadians in 200 rural communities from coast to coast and is uniquely positioned to play a significant role in conserving biodiversity and species at risk.

FPAC members sustainably manage approximately 90 million hectares of land in Canada. That's an area approximately twice the size of Sweden or two and a half times the size of Germany. FPAC members manage forests in a manner that supports economic, environmental, and social sustainability, and work closely with indigenous communities across Canada.

I am going to tell you about three current forest sector activities that directly relate to the conservation of biodiversity and species and help Canada meet its conservation objectives. The first is certification, the second is conservation planning, and the third is FPAC's climate change challenge.

Regarding certification, for over 15 years, all FPAC members have had a third party certify their forest operations under at least one of three certification standards: the Canadian Standards Association, CSA; the sustainable forestry initiative, SFI; or the forest stewardship council, FSC.

Canada is a world leader in this area, with about 160 million hectares, or 43%, of the total certified forests in the world. Certification bolsters an already strong forest regulatory environment. In fact, Canada's forestry regulations and laws were cited in a study from Yale University as being among the most stringent in the world.

Of the many requirements for certification, perhaps the most relevant to this discussion is the requirement to conserve biological diversity, or biodiversity. All certification standards require the maintenance of naturally occurring ecosystems and habitat for species at risk. Conserving biodiversity is built into forest management planning.

Additional relevant certification requirements include the protection of riparian areas, which are those areas adjacent to permanent waterways; the protection of biologically or culturally significant sites; the use of ecosystem-based management approaches, or EBM; and the development of biodiversity research programs. All of these certification requirements are voluntary and significantly contribute toward Canada's conservation objectives.

The second activity I want to talk to you about is conservation planning. Conservation planning contributes to Canada's conservation objectives by helping to identify areas that require some form of conservation. The principles of conservation planning are incorporated into the multiple scales of forest management. For the past five years, the Canadian boreal forest agreement, or CBFA, has been one of the primary vehicles for conservation planning.

The CBFA is a collaboration among forest companies and the environmental groups in Canada. It's built on recognition of the importance of both conservation and a vibrant forest sector. The agreement covers over 70 million hectares of public forests and addresses everything from forest practices to recognition in the marketplace.

While the CBFA has six goals, the major achievements under the first three of these goals are most relevant to this committee.

Under our first goal, we have completed jointly developed guidance and auditing requirements for forest companies to implement practices that fall within the natural range of variation, or NRV, essentially mimicking nature and natural disturbance patterns.

Under goal two, we have jointly developed a protected areas planning framework, which is the basis for our conservation planning approach. Our regional planning tables also utilize a pan-boreal assessment tool that provides national context for existing protected areas and ecosystem representation. We look at the existing legally protected areas and set-asides and determine how we as CBFA signatories can contribute and build off of them to create additional protected areas, or conservation areas, that benefit ecosystem representation and provide habitat for species at risk. In addition, we seek to provide corridors between protected areas when it is beneficial for migratory species.

Under goal three, we have jointly developed a CBFA caribou action planning framework, which we are using in multiple regional planning groups across Canada as we speak. The caribou framework references the federal recovery strategy and looks for solutions that work for both species recovery and the maintenance of a viable forest sector.

In addition to these three goals, the CBFA acknowledges the critical importance of inviting indigenous communities, provincial governments, and other interested parties to our planning tables. We have been able to find creative win-win solutions and together have made significant contributions to conservation objectives, including guidance and approaches to help Canada in its conservation objectives and targets.

The last thing I want to talk about is FPAC's recently announced “30 by 30” climate change challenge.

This substantial commitment aims to improve the forest sector's carbon mitigation by 30 megatonnes of CO2 equivalent per year by 2030. This is a significant contribution to Canada's emissions reduction target. Reaching this target will require action on the part of many partners, including all levels of government.

Improvements can be found in the way we utilize harvested trees, in increased use of wood in buildings, and in further energy efficiencies at our facilities.

As part of our commitment, we will be implementing adaptation practices to help preserve functioning and healthy ecosystems. This includes using climate change predictions and best available information in our long-term forest management planning so that areas set aside for conservation will be providing those benefits, whether by carbon sequestration or preservation of habitat, well into the future.

The forest sector is uniquely positioned to contribute to Canada's conservation objectives, utilizing both protected areas and conservation measures built into sustainable forest management. This includes implementing the initiatives I touched on today.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you. I look forward to your discussion today and to answering any questions you may have.

Thank you very much. Merci beaucoup.

11:40 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you all very much. Thank you so much for shortening up your presentations and giving us the chance to at least hear those four right now. We have one more to come.

We're going to go to the House to vote. We're going to come back as soon as we can. While we're all off voting, can you consider extending this meeting? I have a subcommittee meeting that goes for another half hour. We may be able to extend the meeting, if the committee is prepared to continue sitting and if our witnesses are able to stay.

I'll let you all think about that and work on it as we go for votes.

Thank you.

12:20 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Good afternoon. I'm going to reconvene the meeting and get started, because we want to make sure we make best use of all the time we have.

Thanks again for the patience of everyone waiting for us while we were running back and forth to the House.

I would like to ask Linda Nowlan of West Coast Environmental Law to start with your deposition.

Welcome. Thanks for your patience while you waited for us.

12:20 p.m.

Linda Nowlan Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association

Thank you very much. Thank you to all the members of the committee for running back and being back with us.

I'm pleased to be here to speak with you today on this critical topic, and I commend the committee for tackling this issue.

West Coast Environmental Law is an environmental public interest non-profit organization, and we've been operating in Vancouver since 1974. We currently work on marine protected areas, and that's what I will speak about today.

I've also filed a brief with the committee that has much more detail. Our written brief contains two main recommendations. I'll talk about those and some subtopics in one of the recommendations.

We ask you to first see what we can learn from other countries and their experience in creating marine protected area networks, especially their laws. Second, we ask the committee to determine how to fill the gap in our marine protected area legal regime.

We believe that new and amended legal provisions can provide you with the jet fuel that's needed to reach these very ambitious targets that you've heard so much about.

First, when looking at progress on MPAs in other countries, what can Canada learn? Witnesses you've heard from have outlined the glacial pace of progress on MPAs and the complex policy and social environment in which MPAs are created. Many witnesses to this committee have pointed out that the MPA creation lags far behind terrestrial conservation area creation and far behind Canada's legal commitment, which exists not only under the Convention on Biological Diversity but also under the United Nations sustainable development goal as well as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Some witnesses have underscored the need to go beyond the ambitious targets in Minister Tootoo's mandate letter so that our targets can match the growing body of scientific evidence demonstrating that 30% or 35% coverage is needed to retain the incalculable benefits of the ocean's ecosystem services.

Progress on MPAs has been remarkably slow. Where there is a will, however, there is a way. Other countries have made astonishing progress in a short time frame. Australia, California, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and South Africa are all examples.

Many of these places with successful records of MPA network expansion share a key feature: they've introduced a bold new law that compels action. Law can be a force for change. Canada can learn from their experiences.

A strong legal foundation is one of the enabling conditions for marine protection. The brief goes into a number of examples from Australia, California, the U.K., Scotland, the tiny island nation of Palau, and South Africa. There are also Chile and New Zealand.

A number of countries are racing to meet these legal targets to create MPAs. While no single factor can be pinpointed as the most effective way to a secure marine conservation, law does play a significant role. Careful study of the features of these laws that enabled rapid progress is warranted, and we encourage you to look in detail at features of laws that have proved successful.

Turning to the second point, our brief provides an overview of some gaps in the existing Canadian legal framework for MPAs, with examples of provisions from other places that suggest possible solutions to modify and adapt into law in Canada.

I will go through a few of those.

The first is to designate multiple marine protected areas at once instead of using the ad hoc one-by-one approach that has proved so slow and cumbersome. The evidence suggests that the ad hoc approach to marine protected areas has not worked well. An alternative approach is to designate multiple sites at once, following examples of other countries.

A legislated Canadian framework that ties together the various agencies responsible for MPA creation while setting common goals and objectives could be a foundation for a successful new approach. In the interim, all agencies with responsibility for MPA designation could agree to approach key geographic areas en masse and designate a series or a network of MPAs at once.

What better place to start than in British Columbia? We urge you to look at the exciting and innovative example of the B.C. marine planning partnership, also known as MaPP, as a place where the federal government can make rapid progress in expanding a network of marine protected areas on B.C.'s north and central coasts.

In April 2015, MaPP, the partnership between the Government of British Columbia and seventeen first nations, in a laudable example of co-governance, formally approved marine plans for an area of 102,000 square kilometres, a huge area of our central and north coasts. These plans create large-scale zones in the ocean, similar to the types of zones that we use on land.

To take one example from Haida Gwaii, the planning team identified protection management zones based on important ecological, economic, cultural, and social values. Ten per cent of the area is zoned for high levels of protection to protect eelgrass, kelp, forests, rockfish habitat, seabird colonies, estuaries, herring spawn, and salmon-rearing, areas with mixed human and ecological values. There are also lower-level protection zones corresponding to IUCN categories III and IV, for example. There are special management zones and general management zones as well.

These zones were adopted after years of scientific evidence-gathering, consultation with communities, and a unique partnership between these first nations and the Province of B.C.

12:25 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

You have one minute.

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Staff Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association

Linda Nowlan


MaPP received the transformative award at the Vancouver Aquarium's 21st Annual Coastal Ocean Awards dinner this past February.

It's an example of indigenous reconciliation in the oceans as well, and we commend you for deciding to focus part of your study on indigenous mechanisms for conservation, because there's a great opportunity in Canada to increase our marine protected areas using mechanisms such as indigenous community and conserved areas, or ICCAs. A recent study shows through empirical evidence that laws that authorize indigenous co-management end up protecting a greater area than laws that do not have those features. We recommend that you look in depth at indigenous mechanisms in co-management.

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