Jurisdictional Issues

Jurisdiction over the 'environment' and 'species at risk', is divided between the federal and provincial governments in ways that may seem strange. This is because the division of powers was established long before these concepts existed, in the British North America Act of 1867 (later the Canadian Constitution).

The Federal Government:

  • has jurisdiction over all SARA-listed species on federally owned lands such as national parks and Department of National Defence Lands and over First Nations Reserve land
  • has jurisdiction over migratory birds wherever they occur. This stems from its constituional responsibilities for issues with international or interprovincial dimensions.
  • has jurisdiction over aquatic species wherever they occur, due to its constitutional responsibilities for fisheries.

Basking shark Chris gotschalk

The Provincial Government:

  • has jurisdiction over all other SARA-listed species.
  • must protect listed species to at least SARA standards or the Federal Government may extend its jurisdiction and apply SARA through its 'Safety Net' provisions.

Rubber boa (c) Adam P. Summers 2001

Local Governments:

  • are creations of the Province, and can expect to be required to protect species at risk to provincial standards, which must in turn meet SARA standards.
  • are authorized by British Columbia's Community Charter to regulate for the 'protection of the natural environment'.
  • have been delegated jurisdiction by the Province over most private land uses, water use, and waste management. These are among the most important human activities influencing species at risk conservation and recovery.

Brook spike-primrose (c) Norman Jensen

SARA and Aboriginal Peoples

  • SARA explicitly acknowledges the knowledge and experience of aboriginal peoples with respect to Species at Risk.
  • SARA requires that Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) be considered with COSEWIC assesses a species and COSEWIC has formed an ATK subcommittee to assist with this.
  • SARA requires cooperation and consultation with aboriginal peoples affected by a recovery strategy, action plan, management plant or by critical habitat protection. This is key to effective implementation on reserve lands, land claims settlement regions, and where traditional harvesting activities are carried out.
  • The National Aboriginal Council on Species at Risk (NACOSAR) advises the Minister on the administration of SARA.