Who decides which species are at risk?

There is a process for deciding whether to list species as extirpated, endangered, threatened or of special concern under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). The decision is based on both scientific assessments and public consultation.


Grey fox

First, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC)-scientific advisory body-assesses the status of each species. For its assessments, COSEWIC uses the best available information on the biological status of a species. This includes scientific data, Aboriginal traditional knowledge and community knowledge. Parks Canada provides information to COSEWIC on species found on Parks Canada lands. This information is reported in a Species Status Report available tothe public through the Web-based SARA Registry.

Public consultations

The Minister of the Environment and/or the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, depending on the species, use this Species Status Report for public consultations on whether to add the species to the SARA list. Parks Canada works closely with Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada to ensure that its stakeholders are consulted during the legal listing process and to avoid duplication.

Federal government

The Governor in Council (more or less the federal Cabinet) decides whether or not to add the species to the SARA list based on the recommendation of the Minister of Environment and/or the Minister Fisheries and Oceans, depending on the species under consideration. The recommendation of the Minister(s) is based on the COSEWIC assessment and feedback from the public consultations, for example, about socio-economic considerations.

Emergency measures

Dwarf Lake Iris

SARA also provides authority for two emergency measures if there is an urgent/direct threat to the survival of a species: emergency listing and emergency orders.

The emergency listing process immediately protects a wildlife species. When the Minister of the Environment is of the opinion that there is an imminent threat to the survival of a species, the Minister must recommend to the Governor in Council that the species be added to the SARA list as an endangered species. If the species is added to the SARA list, COSEWIC has to prepare a Species Status Report within one year.

The emergency orders process gives the government the authority to take emergency action to protect a species that is already listed or to protect the habitat that is necessary for its survival or recovery. If the Minister of the Environment or the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans believes that a listed wildlife species is facing direct/urgent threats to its survival or recovery, that Minister must recommend to the Governor in Council that an emergency order be issued.

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