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[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

Thursday, October 19, 2000

• 0915


The Chair (Mr. Charles Caccia (Davenport, Lib.)): We seem to have a quorum, which means we are five in number. We would be more comfortable if we had one member of any opposition party present. Actually, we have one now.

Mr. Julian Reed (Halton, Lib.): Sometimes I wonder.

The Chair: The reason we are slow in forming a quorum is that instead of starting at 10 o'clock this morning, the House started at nine, which requires a quorum there. Some of our members are there in the House to form the quorum, but they may emerge very soon.

With your indulgence, I wonder if we could wait for a couple of minutes just to have a member of the real opposition, rather than a chameleon.

Mr. Gar Knutson (Elgin—Middlesex—London, Lib.): I'm the opposition you have to worry about.

• 0916

• 0919

The Chair: We now have a quorum.

Dr. Green, we welcome you to the committee, as well as Dr. Festa-Bianchet, Dr. Boates, and Dr. Fraser. We are very pleased to see you because of the key role you play in the implementation of Bill C-33. We are very happy to listen to you.

Dr. David M. Green (Chair, Redpath Museum, McGill University; Chair, Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC)): Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here, and I thank the standing committee for inviting us to come to present a brief.

• 0920

I'm going to present the brief we submitted. I would point out that the brief we present and the opinions and recommendations we have don't pertain to the entire bill. They pertain only to COSEWIC, its organization, its function, and the results of what it does with deliberations. Numerous members on COSEWIC are from the federal civil service, and, with respect to the impartiality of the civil service, we don't want you to attribute any part of the brief to the personal opinions of any of those members.

To begin with, COSEWIC has been effective for well over two decades now—about 23 years—in assessing the status of wildlife species in Canada, and it enjoys the wide respect and trust of Canadians. The committee is national, not federal, and it's not an arm or branch of any government. It's a successful model that has been built up over that time, and it is the best way to address the requirements for assessing species extinction risk under the Species at Risk Act, Bill C-33.

In this brief we outline the function and composition of COSEWIC and the guiding principles essential to COSEWIC's success, and we have some specific amendments with rationales that pertain to COSEWIC.

First of all, the function of COSEWIC or the sole task of COSEWIC is to assess the status of wildlife species in Canada to determine if they're at risk, if they're not at risk, or if there is not enough information to make an assessment. And at risk of what? At risk of extirpation from Canada. Where a species exists solely in Canada, then we talk about extinction risk; if it's gone from Canada, it's gone from everywhere. Otherwise, we talk about extirpation from Canada. That's the risk we consider.

We use six categories to classify species' risk of extinction or extirpation from Canada. If they're extinct, they're gone. If they're extirpated, they're gone from Canada, although they still exist elsewhere in the world. They may also be endangered, threatened, of special concern, or currently not at risk. Those are the categories. There's also a seventh category, which is not a designation of a species' risk, and that's “data deficient”. This is not a classification of risk, but a statement of insufficiency of the information at hand.

The committee works on the basis of detailed species status reports that are commissioned and reviewed by species specialist groups. I have here just a few samples—if you want your own samples, you can ask the secretariat—and these reports look like this when they're done. This one is on the Vancouver Island marmot, and it has everything there is to be known about the Vancouver Island marmot. Our designations are based on these reports and all the justifications for designations are in these reports. Everything is very carefully and thoroughly documented.

These reports contain the best available information. Decisions of the committee are reached by a consensus based on that information. To help achieve that consensus where there is not an obvious, clearly expressed unanimity for any particular status, we determine assessments with a vote after a discussion. We require a two-thirds majority for acceptance of a vote. This ensures that no one has a veto over a vote. No one person can overturn and derail a decision of the committee.

This process works effectively. Everybody is heard, everyone has a right to speak and is heard, and everyone accepts the result. When we emerge from a COSEWIC meeting, we agree that we've made the appropriate decision. Everybody uses the same information and applies the same criteria.

• 0925

COSEWIC is structured as follows. There are subcommittees. COSEWIC now has eight taxonomically based subcommittees known as species specialist groups. They prepare the status reports on species to be considered. These subcommittees are central to COSEWIC and how it works. An aboriginal traditional knowledge committee is to be added, and that will enhance COSEWIC's ability to access and incorporate that very important source of information. There is a general committee that consists of expert representatives, including all the subcommittee chairs, members from governmental and non-governmental organizations and jurisdictions, and independents. Supporting all of this is a standing committee of the subcommittee chairs and a secretariat that is administrative support.

I'll turn to the principles behind all this. First of all, COSEWIC has a clearly defined clarity of purpose. COSEWIC's only purpose is to assess the risk of extinction or extermination from Canada of Canadian species of wildlife. It really should not have any other functions ascribed to it other than those that directly enable it to achieve this purpose. You should not burden COSEWIC with other jobs.

COSEWIC is not in league with any government or government agency. It does this independently. It assesses the biological status of wildlife species that occur in Canada, based upon the information at hand and not influenced by social, economic, or political concerns. We don't do that.

COSEWIC embraces a broad range of expertise on the status of endangered wildlife, and includes individuals who have an understanding of a wide range of expertise on taxonomy, science, conservation biology, resource management, wildlife management, etc. All participants in COSEWIC designations are accredited and qualified, and there are no proxies. We do not accept proxies who come in to vote in someone else's place. COSEWIC has sufficient members to ensure the necessary scope, balance, and breadth of expertise that's required for this job.

COSEWIC builds a consensus through a collaborative effort of its members from the jurisdictions, from without the jurisdictions, and from the scientific community. You see here that we have a delegation before you from two jurisdictions from the provinces, and two non-government members from universities.

COSEWIC's assessments are not done rapidly, cursorily, or without detailed information. COSEWIC is a bit ponderous, really. It's meticulous, and it achieves its effectiveness by being meticulous and through thorough documentation. COSEWIC's politically unbiased assessments are the best possible advice for Canadians on the status of Canadian wildlife. COSEWIC makes decisions based only on species-relevant information and scientific analysis. It does not take Canadian internal boundaries, agreements, treaties, economic concerns or social customs into consideration, except where these affect the status of the wildlife species.

I would now like to go through the specific recommendations.

The Chair: Yes, please, and if you could accelerate your pace, it would be helpful.

Dr. David Green: Sorry.

First of all, in subclause 2(1) of the bill, under the definition of “individual”, it says:

    “individual” means an individual of a wildlife species,

etc. We suggest an amendment to that phrase that includes the words “larvae” and “asexual propagules” in order to cover all the bases. It better recognizes the range of life stages and modes of propagation of wildlife species.

The second is the definition of “species of special concern”. The definition in the bill differs from what COSEWIC has been using, so we suggest that it should mean “a wildlife species that may become threatened or endangered because of a combination of biological characteristics and identified threats.” That eliminates some redundancy in the definition and better describes it according to COSEWIC's own definition.

• 0930

In the definition of “wildlife species”, we suggest that you also include other words in the phrase, including “variety”, “biogeographically defined population of animal or plant”, and the use of the word “bacterium” rather than bacteria, because “bacterium” is singular and “bacteria” is a grammatical mistake.

We also include a definition of a species that is more in keeping with scientifically recognized definitions. We're talking about species. We can qualify this, as we suggest, by saying what a wildlife species is. It's good to know what a species is, so we include that. Under “wildlife species”, we suggest:

    2. (5) For the purposes of the use of the term “species”,

—which has scientific meaning—

    a reference to a “species” in this Act shall refer to a “wildlife species” as defined in subsection (1).

That provides some clarity.

Turning to number 6, the establishment of COSEWIC, we want to put forward an amendment to that, so that it says COSEWIC should be established

    to carry out its functions under this Act solely on the basis of the best available information, including scientific knowledge and aboriginal traditional knowledge, and analysis of the biological status of species at risk.

This gives better clarity to the function and purpose of COSEWIC from the beginning, and it states de facto that COSEWIC is and must be apolitical. This better defines the role of COSEWIC further on.

Under the function of COSEWIC, we wish to add the word “potentially”, because we “assess the status of each wildlife species considered potentially to be at risk”. We don't know they're at risk yet; that's why we do it. We figure out if they're at risk, so “potentially” is a useful word.

In the classification categories, “not at risk” is also a classification of risk, and it should not be considered to be not a classification. The only classification that's not a statement of risk is “data deficient”. Therefore, we can delete subparagraph 15(1)(a)(iii), etc., because it's a statement of risk status.

In setting priorities and urgencies under paragraph 15(1)(b), COSEWIC is asked to rank the urgency of assessing particular wildlife species. We would prefer that it reads “assess wildlife species with a priority given to those potentially most at risk”, for much the same reason. We don't know if it's at risk until we find out.

Also, still on clause 15 of the bill, we suggest replacing the present wording that says we “reassess the status of species at risk and, if necessary, reclassify or declassify them” with “if appropriate, reclassify them or declassify them”. Status is assigned as appropriate by COSEWIC in light of the information contained in a status report. “Data deficient” is the only status that could be regarded as a declassification.

The next part is the provision of advice to the minister and council. The bill uses the phrase “perform any other functions that the Minister, after consultation with that Council”—that's the CESCC—“may assign”. We suggest that this should read: “provide advice to the Minister and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council concerning the status of species in Canada”. That's COSEWIC's job, and it's its only job. It should not be asked to do other things. It doesn't prohibit the minister from asking individual members for advice as experts, but COSEWIC's job is clearly defined and we think it should remain so.

• 0935

We suggest that a new part be added to the section dealing with keeping the list taxonomically current. Names change in the scientific literature as more and better information comes to the fore. It is just adding that COSEWIC should keep up to date, and “amend the scientific and common names in the list of species at risk in accordance with currently accepted zoological or botanical nomenclature”.

Also in clause 15, on best available information, this has already been stated in our recommended change to clause 14 and is now redundant, so we accept the earlier amendment. This can go.

Under subclause 15(3), it says “COSEWIC must take into account any applicable treaty and land claims agreement and carrying out its functions”. We suggest, respectfully, that this be deleted.

COSEWIC functions to assess the status of wildlife species based on the best available information, which includes scientific knowledge and aboriginal traditional knowledge, as is abundantly stated elsewhere. And as I stated before, it is a national organization, it's not political, and it does not consider internal Canadian boundaries or land ownership in assessing species. The only boundary that COSEWIC has in mind is the territorial limit of Canada. Thus any treaty agreements, such as hunting or fishing rights or the protection afforded by the stewardship of treaty lands, will be part of the knowledge used in assessing species. But these circumstances will apply in view of their effect upon the well-being of the species, not just because they're treaty rights. We will follow the spirit of this, but we cannot under the letter take into account land claims agreements. We see that insofar as this refers to political rather than scientific considerations, this is not something we cannot do.

Turning to recommendation 16, there is presently nothing in the bill along the lines of the recommendation that

    No legal action, suit or or proceedings shall be brought or commenced against COSEWIC or a member of COSEWIC for or in respect to any action taken or omitted to be taken by COSEWIC or by that member during the course of and for the purposes of a species status assessment by COSEWIC.

That sounds like a lot of legalese to me, but it means COSEWIC should be able to do its work without fear of suits. We can then have the ability to fulfil our functions without fear of threat.

Alternate members are something instituted into COSEWIC's organization, and, it must be mentioned here, that fact is not presently stated in the bill. In keeping with how COSEWIC is organized, we suggest the following:

    Each member may have a designated alternate who may participate as necessary in COSEWIC functions and decisions in lieu of the member and to whom all terms and conditions specified in Section 16, subsections (1) through (6) also apply. No persons other than the member or the member's designated alternate

—who goes through the same process of accreditation and appointment—

    as so described may participate in COSEWIC's decision making.

It must be recognized that members may not always be able to attend and that alternate membership may be required, but those alternates must be accredited.

Clause 20 is about staff and facilities, and it says “The Minister may provide COSEWIC with”, etc. Really, we have to do this work. We're called upon to do this work, and we must be provided with these facilities so that we can do it. If we're commanded by law to undertake this work, we must have the means to do it. “This assistance must be under the functional direction of COSEWIC” so that it can perform its functions as a non-governmental, non-political organization.

• 0940

Looking at recommendation 19, the establishment of the legal list, I must say a few extra words.

COSEWIC—and I repeat this ad nauseam—is not political. This is so important a principle for COSEWIC members that a sizeable number of COSEWIC members are reluctant to express any opinion on policies contained in the bill. Nevertheless, we have to recognize that this is, of course, a political process and COSEWIC is embedded in it. In this context, there's no such thing as not having an opinion. Not saying something is an opinion. If we recognize that opinion, we must also recognize that an equal number of COSEWIC members have expressed opinions, so what follows is that other opinion. One opinion is not to say anything; the other opinion is what follows.

The work of COSEWIC will carry little weight under SARA if its designations are not translated into a legal list. The recovery and protection provisions in the bill have no importance if there is no legal list to which they apply. If there is no list, the rest is verbiage. The legal list of wildlife species at risk must be established. This list should contain those species classified by COSEWIC, and it should be open to amendment. Because COSEWIC status assessments are as thorough as they are, they are the best available.

All but a few members of COSEWIC who expressed their opinions agree that the minister should have the discretionary power to exclude a species from the list even if COSEWIC has designated it as being at risk. Like COSEWIC itself, I feel this exclusion or this exemption from the legal list should also be open, consultative, completely transparent, and well documented. This will enable public consultation concerning the contents of the legal list in view of all those political, social, and economic concerns that COSEWIC does not take into account. In doing so, it does not compromise the independent decision-making of COSEWIC. It keeps it in its realm, and the political action of amending and making a legal list is kept in its realm, with both sides open and transparent.

That said—returning to our brief—it says in the present bill, “The Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Minister, by regulation”, etc. We suggest that it simply read, “The Governor in Council shall, by regulation, establish the List of Wildlife Species at Risk”.

The content of the list can be specified separately by saying, “The List of Wildlife Species at Risk shall consist of wildlife species classified by COSEWIC” in one of its categories. This defines the content. This follows on—and these are all part of a package—the idea that the list can be amended.

We suggest that the following subclause should be put in place:

    27.(3) Where COSEWIC designates a wildlife species as Extinct, Extirpated, Endangered, or Threatened in Canada, changes a classification, or reclassifies a wildlife species in a category other than one of those, the Minister shall, within 60 days thereof, recommend to the Governor in Council to amend the List of Wildlife Species at Risk accordingly. The Minister shall give notice of the amendment in the public registry.

So this simply specifies amendments to the list. That's fairly simple.

• 0945

The last is the allowance for the minister to exempt species from this list. The list is established; the list is amended. The minister can take species off or choose not to put species on this list and may recommend to the Governor in Council that a wildlife species classified by COSEWIC as extinct, extirpated, endangered, or threatened may not be included in the list of wildlife species at risk under subclause 27.(3).

Before making a recommendation of exemption, the minister must consult, take into account COSEWIC's assessment, deal with management boards, and provide justifications for the exemption—he can do that anyway—and include the justifications in the public manuscript. We feel that this keeps the process open and obvious for everyone to see.

The rationale for these is that this provides the minister the discretionary power to recommend amendments to the legal list upon consultation, even in contravention of COSEWIC's designation. This allows a public, open, and transparent process concerning the contents of the list in view of those political, social, and economically based arguments that are not COSEWIC's concern. This does not compromise the independence of COSEWIC as a decision-making body.

We point out in the brief that there is a difference of opinion about the foregoing, which I've explained. What we recommend is not what is contained in the bill precisely, nor what has been advocated by numerous non-government groups. The people in COSEWIC who support this feel that it's a workable and viable compromise.

There are two more things. On data-deficient species, there isn't anything in the bill along the lines of what has been recommended. If a wildlife species has been classified as data-deficient, the competent minister may take action to correct this deficiency of information concerning the species so that status may be assessed. We think too often “data-deficient” leaves a species in a black hole of indecision and it stays there. Really, data-deficient should be a flag that we need to know more, and we feel that this would be a positive step.

Finally, on schedules 1 and 2, which are COSEWIC lists, COSEWIC lists are continually being updated, added to, and sometimes subtracted from, so dating the list would make it more appropriate. We will meet again in November, and we'll change the list again. That's what we do.

Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, Dr. Green.

We have Mr. Reed, Mr. Lincoln, Madam Redman, and Mr. Knutson. But before we open up, are there any comments that other panellists would like to make?

Dr. J. Sherman Boates (Manager, Biodiversity, Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources; Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada): Not at this point.

The Chair: Okay.

I'm told also that Dr. Boates, in his remarks, will speak about Nova Scotia's endangered species legislation.

Dr. Sherman Boates: I could do that now if you wish to take a minute, or I can do it later.

The Chair: Do it now, briefly, please.

Dr. Sherman Boates: I guess I wear two hats. I'm a member of COSEWIC, but I'm also the person largely responsible for working on the Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act, which was passed about two years ago. The reason I thought it was important to bring up is that it's the first post-accord piece of endangered species legislation in Canada. The legislation then was built on the same foundation as the federal bill. So we obviously have a number of aspects of the Nova Scotia bill that parallel the federal one.

• 0950

One of the aspects that may be worth mentioning is that we do have a direct listing process in Nova Scotia. Species are reviewed by a small COSEWIC-like body, and then once they make their decisions and provide those to the ministers, they immediately go into regulation without any further consideration.

As a comment on why that happened, first of all, when the accord was put out, we all agreed to have independent listing. So the question about what independent listing was didn't get so complex and detailed until quite a bit later on. That's one of the reasons.

I think another reason we were able to do that successfully in Nova Scotia is that we're talking about a much smaller number of species. We're talking about in the order of tens of species rather than hundreds of species. So in some ways it's an easier thing to do there.

The bill also has all the recovery planning components. It has critical habitat designations, although they are discretionary by the minister. It also has a compensation section.

I want to make sure that people are aware of that bill, and that provinces can develop legislation that basically does very much of the job that's put forward here in the federal bill.

If there are any questions related to the Nova Scotia bill or our experience, I'd be happy to answer them.

Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, Dr. Boates. You have many admirers of that bill on this committee.

We'll start with Mr. Reed, Mr. Lincoln, Madam Redman, and Mr. Knutson.

Mr. Julian Reed: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I wonder if you could explain to me the difference between a species potentially at risk and a species not a risk. As a layman thinking about this, isn't every species potentially at risk?

Dr. David Green: In a certain sense. Groups like IUCN figure that all species are at some level of risk. The IUCN doesn't even have a designation, “not at risk”. We do. We figure that things like robins and black spruce are probably not at risk.

What I mean by “potentially” is something that we haven't written a report about yet. We have some information that the specialist group knows about this species, this animal or plant, knows that there may be some threats to it. They know what size its range is and has some information about population size, but a report for COSEWIC has not yet been done. So it's a potential. It's potentially to be put on our list, but it has not been investigated yet.

Once it has been investigated and found to be quite okay, and we have a report on it that says it's okay, then it's designated “not at risk”. “Potentially at risk” is not a designation; it's before the process. It's a prioritization item, something for us to get to.

Mr. Julian Reed: I don't really know what I'm talking about on a lot of this stuff, so I depend on experts like yourselves. But it seems to me, through my life experience and where I live, that some species cycle through rather quickly, where a species will seem to have virtually disappeared, and then cycle up again and seem to become plentiful.

I use the leopard frog out in my area as an example. For the last 20 years, it has been declining. This year, I must have run over 25 of them as I drove home from the escarpment one night after a heavy rain. Where did they all come from?

Dr. David Green: We know that; we know these species go up and down.

I work on frogs. Frogs are my thing. The first thing I can tell you about frog populations is that each female frog that lays eggs lays thousands of them. A leopard frog female will lay six to ten thousand eggs, so the mortality rate is astronomical. Just a little bit of change in the success rate of those works out to a lot of little frogs. If it's just one percent better, that's another thousand frogs. Or with one percent worse, it goes the other way.

• 0955

So those populations and species with that kind of life history, where they lay lots of eggs, there's a big risk, and death rates are very high, tend to fluctuate in population size.

For the toad that I've been working on for the past umpteen years, I have good documentation. It went up and down, and up and down.

So we take that into account. There's a concept in population biology called “the effective population size”, where it's really what the population is that's biologically important in it. You can go way up, but effectively, that just means it's a blip; there were a lot of animals that year. Effectively, it's more like the bottom end. If the drop doesn't go to zero, you still have frogs. If it drops to zero, then they're gone. They can go up, but they can never go up so high that they can't come down again. But they can go down to zero, and they won't come up.

We have to take that into account. So the effective population out of the fluctuating species is the low end, not the high end. We recognize that, and there are lots of species that do that. We take that into account; we know that as part of the assessment.

Mr. Julian Reed: Thank you.

Dr. Sherman Boates: Can I add a little bit to that?

In COSEWIC business, we always have to be used to thinking about things from the organism's perspective. So for a turtle, 50 years might be the timeframe we're interested in. If it's an insect, it might be less than a year. As part of our deliberations on whether something is at risk or not, we have to take all these little factors about the life of the animal and the plant into consideration.

Mr. Julian Reed: Thank you. That is very enlightening, because in the last few years there has been a lot of public commentary about the disappearance of amphibians—

Dr. David Green: Right.

Mr. Julian Reed: —and I tended to agree until this fall.

Dr. David Green: I've been at the forefront of that in Canada. I'm a board member of the international task force that's looking into amphibian declines, and I edited a book on amphibian declines in Canada in 1997, so I'm up on this.

For pond-breeding amphibians that fluctuate a lot, yes, there are declines, but if you follow it for a few years, in the long term, that doesn't mean so much.

For those animals, we're worried about loss of populations. If populations are crashing to zero and not being resupplied from elsewhere, as is happening out west, in B.C. and Alberta, for those species, that's a decline. That's a decline in range; that's a decline in numbers of populations. Those are permanent, and that's the problem. For those animals, it's not a question of numbers of individuals within a population; it's numbers of populations.

That's different for animals that have very stable population sizes. There are a number of salamanders that are very stable, but they breed more like mammals. They have clutch sizes. They lay maybe a dozen or two dozen eggs, which is getting into the realm of mammal life histories.

If a caribou is born, you have one more caribou. If a caribou dies, you have one less caribou. You can jot it down. There, the number of individuals in a population really means something biologically important. If that really goes down, then you have a phenomenon, but for the animals at the other end of the life history scale, you have to think of it in different terms.

Mr. Julian Reed: Thank you.

The Chair: Mr. Lincoln, please.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln (Lac-Saint-Louis, Lib.): Given that we have limited time, I'd like to ask a few questions. Maybe you could make a note and answer them. These are to you and to Dr. Boates.

• 1000

About the comparison between Nova Scotia and Bill C-33—the most significant one being independent listing of all of them, for sure—Dr. Boates mentioned that one big difference is that we're talking about tens of species in Nova Scotia to be listed, versus hundreds at the federal level. Yet the information we have, which is factual, is that about 125 at the federal level have already been reviewed, and according to the minister's letter to us, the review would be finished by spring of 2001 mostly. So doesn't that kind of kill the argument that it's tens against hundreds, because the list has already been reviewed, at least half of it, practically?

Secondly, we understand that there was a tremendous dissension of opinion within COSEWIC about whether there should be the independent listing by COSEWIC or the Governor-in-Council formula that has been adopted by the bill. I would like to know if the decision you adopted to follow the Bill C-33 method was unanimous, or is it true that there was a tremendous difference in opinion within COSEWIC about this point?

Thirdly, unless I've looked at it wrongly, in your suggested amendments there's another argument as to whether the bill should include the existing list as part of the legal start, the start of the bill within its operative clauses, as was the case in Bill C-65, where it's not now. We are starting without a list. There has been a suggestion that clause 129 should be amended to include the starting list, as Bill C-65 provided. Unless I see it wrong, I don't think you have provided for a starting list. In other words, the bill will remain just the same according to your amendments, and I wanted you to confirm that.

Fourthly, there is the whole question of listing. I think you agree with those who have brought it forward that discretion is not acceptable. In Bill C-65 under clause 30 the government had to signify in the public registry its intention to amend the list or otherwise or refuse to within 90 days. But the interesting part is that this had to be done by the Governor in Council. Cabinet had to register.

Bill C-33 is wide open. There are no timelines. There's total discretion. So you have suggested an amendment under clause 27 that says:

    ...the Minister shall, within 60 days thereof, recommend to the Governor in Council to amend the List of Wildlife Species at Risk accordingly. The Minister shall give notice of the amendment in the public registry.

This is certainly a step forward from Bill C-33, agreed. At the same time, you still leave the discretion with the Governor in Council. You put the onus on the minister to recommend to the Governor in Council within 60 days, but unless I'm seeing it wrong, the Governor in Council still has the discretion to say “Fine, the minister has recommended to me and he has put it in the public registry for 60 days, but I'm going to sit on it for...”.

Dr. David Green: That's nice of you to say. We missed that. You could put that in for us.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: But I think it's a very important distinction, because if we put the onus on the minister to register within 60 days in the public registry and we leave it open on the cabinet table, we have not accomplished very much.

These are the points I wanted to make. I wonder if you and Dr. Boates could comment on, first of all, the COSEWIC independent listing. If the rationale within your committee is purely that it's a matter of numbers, I think that question is already answered by the speed of the review.

The second thing is the existing list. Should it be part of the legislation? Some of us certainly feel very strongly that it should.

Thirdly, there's the whole question of if the method is going to continue to be the Governor in Council—I would prefer an independent listing—then how do we make the Governor in Council accountable to register in the public registry within a specified number of days? If it's 60 days rather than 90 days, I'm delighted.

Dr. David Green: That's a lot of stuff to answer.

• 1005

On the first point, COSEWIC has been doing reassessments, and the reason we've been so speedy on these reassessments is that these are not new assessments. The ones we've been doing have not involved new reports. Reports take a long time to do. That's the rate-limiting step. This report doesn't get done in a month. The report gets done in a year, a year and a half, sometimes two years. It takes a long time. It's very thorough.

In the reassessments we did we asked: Is there any new information that would potentially overturn the designation we already have? Is there new information sufficient to require an update, a new report? No. Is there new information that we could add as an addendum, a little bit of new information? Well, maybe yes, maybe no. There's no new information at all. Great. Let's go through this report. Let's get all of them done together in a block in order to get a consistent assessment against these new criteria and go through it and do them. That did not require commissioning new reports. That meant that we could go through them with that rapidity.

We're going to come up to another round of reassessments. These are the ones that didn't pass the first cut. These are the ones where there is new information. These are the ones that require sometimes lengthy addenda to them. We're going to work on those ones. There are some that will be left over until spring. Then we'll get to the ones that will simply require commissioning of new reports, and we'll get to those when the new reports come in.

So that's why we were able to do them so quickly. It's not relevant to Nova Scotia or an independent listing or anything. It's that we already had those reports, and they were still current. They were only a few years old, and there was less additional information. So it's perhaps not as you think it was.

On the issue of the start list, that's something to consider. What would be the start list? I was under the impression that the reassessments we had done—getting the house in order and having all the endangered and threatened species assessed against new criteria, done consistently, done within the last year as specified, meet the timelines so that we could do it quickly—would put us in good shape either for making the list from square one as a start list or, as it says in the bill, it gives us 30 days to do it all but allows us to go back two years in order to take that into account. Then we'd be able to do that. We'd be ahead so that we could provide this list as asked for within the 30 days, and there it goes. We didn't have an opinion on that. We were simply trying to get ready for it.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: You don't have any objection to recommending that the start-up list be the amended list that you already have now, whether it's 125 or 150.

Dr. David Green: I have no objection.

Dr. Sherman Boates: I think one of the points to raise in particular to that would be that originally when we started, COSEWIC was trying to do the work that needed to be done to align with the new bill. There was some concern that the reassessments might hold up the federal bill. But because of the progress on the bill and COSEWIC working very hard, I think we have most of those assessments done. So I think we are in a better situation now than we were when we started talking about this. So that reaffirms what—

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Is the answer that you would be for a start-up list as amended?

Dr. David Green: Neither for nor against. It would be fine. However the list is initiated, within 30 days of proclamation or at proclamation, we'll be ready. We will have a list that could be made to be that initial list. We will have it ready. That's what we've been trying to do.

• 1010

Dr. Sherman Boates: There are two reasons for having a delay in the start-up list. One is whether or not COSEWIC has completed the assessments, and the second is whether or not the bill is ready to work, is up and ready to run. There might be other reasons for not having the start-up list other than COSEWIC not having done its work yet.

Dr. David Green: On your last point, your last question, about discretion and the minister versus the Governor in Council, I'm not a legislator and I'm not a lawyer, so I didn't think of that.

Did we think of that? I get them confused.

Yes, I would agree with you that there's a timeline for the minister. I think this intends to have a timeline for the whole process, as you said, but we missed that fine point.

The Chair: Thank you.

Madame Redman, please.

Mrs. Karen Redman (Kitchener Centre, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chairperson.

Just to get back to the reassessment for a moment, who came up with the new assessment criteria that you're using? Of the species that have been reassessed, have there been many changes in the classification of many species?

Dr. David Green: We devised the new criteria. We met on many occasions, and it was a long process. Dr. Boates headed up an ad hoc subcommittee to investigate this. We met with people from IUCN, we talked to people from Nature Conservancy and other groups that have criteria, we studied the U.S. bill and other systems, and we hit upon the IUCN method of approach as being appropriate, although we didn't take it lock, stock, and barrel. We adjusted it and amended it to our own use.

For the criteria that we devised and approved, we first approved it ourselves, allowing alignment with the IUCN list, which is international, but using what works for us. In terms of nomenclature, ours drops one of the IUCN categories, “critically endangered”. That's something we don't use and don't do. We realized that our “endangered” and “threatened” categories aligned very closely with the cut-off points for IUCN's “endangered” and what they call “vulnerable”. Our “threatened” is their “vulnerable”, and now you know, so now you can translate. So we adopted this list. We sent this up to the wildlife director's committee, who approved it and offered some wording changes, which we took in kind and in spirit. That's the origin of the criteria.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Thank you. And of the ones you've reassessed, how many have had their classification changed?

Dr. David Green: There were a number of them, but to say they were due to the new criteria would be wrong. There were reassessments of the information. The reason for having criteria is to gain consistency from year to year and from taxonomic group to taxonomic group. When we did that, we realized that as personnel changes and as years go by, if you don't have a set of criteria, the cut-off point between one group and another can waiver a bit from year to year. We've therefore firmed that up, so some things from particular years got shifted back and forth.

So there was some realignment. A number under “threatened” ended up in “endangered”, and there will be some more realignment as we go through the special concerns, but they will be more firmly done and will be more consistent.

Mr. David Fraser (Endangered Species Specialist, Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, Government of British Columbia; Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada): It's hard to separate that stuff out cleanly. In some cases, a species actually was worse off than when the report was written a few years ago, so we had new information about an additional threat or a population that had further declined.

So in some cases you can't even do the straight translation and say this is based on the criteria, because we didn't separate those things.

• 1015

Dr. Sherman Boates: For a reassessment, you can't just compare the old list with the new list. You have to remember that previous to these reassessments there weren't any criteria. So although this is a reassessment, it's the first time the criteria have been applied.

Dr. David Green: Well, there were criteria. We weren't dealing with a vacuum. But they weren't numerical criteria with fixed—

Dr. Sherman Boates: Yes. They were definition-based criteria, as opposed to numerical criteria.

Mrs. Karen Redman: I guess what I'm trying to get at is whether or not the majority of species that you've reassessed have changed. Is it 10%? Is it five out of...?

Dr. David Green: It's more in the realm of 5% or 10%. We saw and we realized the cut-off points, the critical points in the system that we were adopting, and we made sure they aligned with what we felt would be the appropriate levels for our pre-existing categories. We thought, good, they line up in that way. There may be a little bit of adjustment up and down, but we adopted these criteria because they fit what we were already doing. So we don't expect to see wholesale realignments and hundreds of special concerns being threatened. It won't happen that way.

Mrs. Karen Redman: In your recommendation 12, you state that the function of COSEWIC should be to “provide advice to the Minister and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council concerning the status of species in Canada”. Isn't this recommendation in conflict with your recommendation on establishing the legal list? Do COSEWIC members agree with your suggestion about the legal list? I guess I'm just trying to marry those two positions, because it seems to me that recommendation 12 would place enormous pressure on COSEWIC members to consider socio-economic considerations as part of their scientific assessment process.

Dr. David Green: I say again that I'm not a legislator nor a lawyer, but the way recommendation 12 reads to me, if the minister or the council calls us up and asks for new information on polar bears or what the status of polar bears is, we'll give advice. We'll talk about it, and we'll let the minister or the council know what we know. Aside from the assessment that we're giving anyway, we'll give this assessment. If the minister or the council wants some more information, well, there's the report, or, if we know anything else, then we'll happily cooperate and we'll provide the information.

What the amendment proposed for the bill does is take out the phrase “perform any other functions”. It's those “any other functions” that are in the bill that we don't think we can do. What “any other functions”? We're there just to provide advice and assessments of species' risk. That's all we do. Asking us to do any other functions I think is asking more of us than should be the case.

So that's what that is, aside from the assessments themselves, which of course we are bound and determined to do.

Mrs. Karen Redman: So it's fair to assume that the majority—I know you talked about the two-thirds—of the members of COSEWIC would be in agreement with that.

If I can, I have one final question, Dr. Boates. I'm going to ask you to put on your sou'wester hat for a minute.

Dr. Sherman Boates: Oh, good, yes.

Mrs. Karen Redman: We've looked at the Nova Scotia model, and the chairperson has talked about the fact that there are a lot of fans for that. This bill, SARA, in its entirety—and I realize you're here as the COSEWIC panel—has really tried to engage a lot of stakeholders and achieve some kind of balance. Very often, however, you hear people voicing some discomfort with some of the federal-provincial relationships, although I don't know if we would say they're not assured of the action of all provinces.

What prompted Nova Scotia to move in the direction it did? Do you sense that there should be any angst on the part of Canadians or people who are looking at this legislation, in terms of worrying about the provinces not measuring up to the bar or doing the right thing?

• 1020

Dr. Sherman Boates: Our particular approach was based on our commitment to implement the accord, and I think that all jurisdictions are very keen on implementing the accord. There is certainly some flexibility in how jurisdictions choose to approach that. We chose to develop a stand-alone endangered species act because we felt that was the right thing to do at the time.

Having said that, it's hard to understand the need or not for federal and provincial laws. We're not exactly sure how our bill will work with the federal bill, but it's quite clear that there is a need for both. But I think the challenge, of course, is that people may feel that what's in a particular province or jurisdiction might not cover off all the aspects of the accord in the way they would like to see it done. So it's a very tricky situation. But I think there is a need for strong provincial legislation and federal legislation if you look at it from a viewpoint of species-at-risk protection, and I think that's what we have to keep in mind.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Thank you.

The Chair: Next is Mr. Knutson, followed by Madam Kraft Sloan possibly, the chair, and Mr. Lincoln again.

Mr. Gar Knutson: On that last point, you said that all jurisdictions are keen to implement the accord. I just wondered if that's true for Ontario as well.

Dr. Sherman Boates: I can't speak for Ontario.

Mr. Gar Knutson: All jurisdictions are keen to implement.

Dr. Sherman Boates: Yes, I think they are keen to implement the accord.

Mr. Gar Knutson: How many years has it been since the accord?

Dr. Sherman Boates: The accord was signed first in 1996, I believe.

Mr. Gar Knutson: Sergio Marchi was the minister then. How many years? Is it four?

Dr. Sherman Boates: Yes.

Mr. Gar Knutson: A worry of many of the environmental groups is that strong federal legislation will trigger the provinces that want to maintain jurisdiction in the field to have strong provincial legislation. If we don't have strong federal legislation, then some provinces will only rise to a lower standard. That's really, I think, part of the debate as to how intrusive the federal legislation should be into what some would consider provincial jurisdiction.

I wonder if I can raise the issue of mandatory habitat protection. You mentioned that in Nova Scotia it's discretionary.

Dr. Sherman Boates: Yes.

Mr. Gar Knutson: It's discretionary in this bill. The government has indicated that part of the reason it's discretionary is that we can't define it. Can you comment on that, or any of the others?

Dr. Sherman Boates: Certainly. I can tell you why we have discretionary critical habitat protection in our law. Basically, it was because when we started from the perspective of thinking about the species and habitats and how we would define and protect these in a legal sense, we saw so much variability in the biology and the habitats that it was impossible to come up with something that would provide adequate core habitat protection in a kind of blanket way. We could only see it being approached on a species-by-species, habitat-by-habitat, situation-by-situation basis. So that's basically why we went the route we did.

Mr. Gar Knutson: Why couldn't you put in your legislation that critical habitat protection on a species-by-species, case-by-case basis will be mandatory?

Dr. Sherman Boates: The other recognition is that although many species are in trouble because of habitat considerations, not all species are. So there are different ways to interpret the discretionary nature of that section.

Mr. Gar Knutson: Okay. Could you put in legislation that when it's required, critical habitat will be protected?

Dr. Sherman Boates: Yes, that could be good wording.

• 1025

Mr. Gar Knutson: With regard to the issue of the list, it has been suggested that the reason the scientists wanted to stay out of socio-economic concerns is that they just wanted to do their science. They wanted to give an indication as to whether or not a species was at risk. They didn't want to be burdened with the issue of whether they were going to wipe out an industry or there were going to be big consequences as to whether it was recognized in law that it was endangered. They were concerned that if we trigger the consequences of the bill, from a scientist's point of view you'll then become burdened with socio-economic concerns, and you'll perhaps have to consider unintended consequences, and that's not really a task the scientists wanted or thought was appropriate to them.

Now, what your recommendation seems to be saying raises some doubt, at least in my mind, that's the case.

Dr. David Green: What we want is a compromise between these two extreme positions. If COSEWIC's list automatically became legal, as has been advocated by a number of groups, then there would be no recourse for people who have these social, political, and economic concerns except to try to pressure COSEWIC and put that in the forefront of what COSEWIC is trying to do.

What COSEWIC is trying to do is just assess what the species are doing. As soon as COSEWIC bows to some political pressure group and says okay, we'll do it for you, then we've compromised the truth of the situation. If you please one group of folks, you're going to annoy several other groups of people. We can't get into that game.

We have to keep what COSEWIC does separate, and then everybody—no matter how you like it or what you want to do about it—knows the same thing. They know that if this habitat continues to go this way, if this pressure still keeps going on of hunting or whatever, this is what's going to happen, as COSEWIC and everyone knows. Then it enters the realm of what we can do. That's the best advice you're going to get from what we can do independently based on biology and all the information we can find on it. That's the best information you're going to get about the status of the species. So that's, we say, the basis for the legal list. You're not going to do better.

What you do about that, then, is in another realm. That's when people come and say don't list it yet, because industry is going to fail and I can't feed my kids, or it has importance to us in some other ways. Then it can be discussed that it's in the realm of recovery, of what to do about the problem we've identified. That's not our job. I'm not equipped to do that. I have no expertise in that. I'm not elected. I can't speak for people and past regulations. I can't do that.

So we need to separate that production of information, which should be the substance, the formation of the list, from doing the list itself, which is government's job. They should do that.

That said, government should take this advice. It should be the first cut of the list, and the things that are decided not to be on the list should also be justified.

We felt—and this is a strongly held opinion on COSEWIC—that the discretion the Governor in Council has to take them and put them on the list goes too far, that the list becomes a legal list, but you can take some out and justify it. Tell us, and everyone will know. It's likely that if the minister or the Governor in Council does that, they're going to have to explain it anyway. So let's have it all up front.

• 1030

We are told—and we agree—that we need to be open and transparent. Sure, let's be open and transparent in the whole thing.

Mr. Gar Knutson: I wonder if I could ask Mr. Fraser what British Columbia is doing to implement the accord.

Mr. David Fraser: I should preface this by saying that I'm actually here as a COSEWIC member, not as a representative of British Columbia, but I can tell you that we've taken a look at some of the existing programs and legislation and policies that we have. I've identified a number of places in which we're going to need to change those, but we haven't gone the Nova Scotia route of saying we're probably going to need a stand-alone endangered species act.

Mr. Gar Knutson: So in four years, what have you done to date?

Mr. David Fraser: We've put in things like a program called the identified wildlife strategy under our forest practices code. It allows us to identify specific habitat places for endangered species. We've changed our Ecological Reserves Act to give it more protection and more strength, and we've aligned it with our Parks Act because a lot of our ecological reserves are set aside specifically to manage key critical habitat for endangered species. And there is a whole suite of initiatives that we've gone through, including strengthening our conservation data centre in terms of its ability to assess species and give us some prior warning.

One of the problems with the COSEWIC process is that it's very careful and very slow. We have a number of species at risk that COSEWIC is going to take a while to get to. So for some of those provisions the accord is associated with in terms of trying to ensure that more species don't become at risk, we're trying to catch them using some of those initiatives.

Mr. Gar Knutson: Thanks.

The Chair: Thank you.

Madame Kraft Sloan, the chair, and Mr. Lincoln.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan (York North, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chair. I apologize for coming in late.

Perhaps you've already answered these questions, but maybe you could help to clarify a few things for me as well.

When I take a look at your list, you have six categories. Let's just take a look at “endangered”. When you declare a species endangered, it's based on biological criteria, is that correct?

Dr. David Green: Yes.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: So if you were going to identify a species as endangered, that's done based on biological criteria today, as COSEWIC currently operates.

Dr. David Green: Yes.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: And in the way the bill is currently written, I would assume it would be done based on biological criteria as well.

Dr. David Green: Yes.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Now, if the list that COSEWIC put together became the legal list, why is it that a species that would be identified as endangered would somehow not be based on biological criteria?

Dr. David Green: We hope it wouldn't be. We feel, though, that it runs a grave risk that if people want to have their say, they're going to come up and say it. If COSEWIC is empowered to make a legal list—and we have to be empowered to do that—then we are becoming a regulatory body; we are passing things that are going to be immediately made legal. That's going to be a hefty constitutional thing to do.

People deserve and have the right to speak up about regulations and laws that affect them. They're going to demand to come to COSEWIC to lobby us, to speak with us, to try to persuade us of their point of view. They would have the right to do that. That's why it's going to interfere with what we do.

We can now say “Thank you for coming, but we're now going to ignore you”. But then we can't do that. That's the fear that arises as a consequence of having COSEWIC's list immediately made legal. It would be lovely. It would be nice. I think it would be great if that happened, because that's the information that would go into the legal list anyway. There it is. That's how it should be. But we can't do that. We shouldn't be empowered to have that responsibility. Personally, I would feel uncomfortable with it. That's why I'm not a legislator and I'm not a regulator.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: No, I know you're not a legislator, and you're not an economist—

Dr. David Green: I'm not an economist.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: —and you're not a sociologist. You're a biologist.

• 1035

Dr. David Green: I'm a biologist, and I know how to do this. That's what I do, and that's what we do on COSEWIC.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: I think a number of people have the concern that in the bill it's extremely discretionary as to whether the GIC is actually going to take your recommendations and create a legal list, use those recommendations as part of a legal list.

Dr. David Green: Yes.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: I think if a decision to identify a species as endangered is a biological decision—and it is always a biological decision—the decision about what to do with that species, if it's endangered, is a different kind of decision.

Dr. David Green: Yes. I agree with you completely.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Then what could we do to the bill that would ensure that the biological decisions are left with the people who know these issues and have the expertise in these issues?

We ensure that we have a legal list, because nothing is going to happen unless we have species listed. You can do the finest biological work in the entire universe—and I know we have a lot of excellent scientists in this country, because I've worked with a lot of them—you can do all that very fine work, but nothing will be done about it unless it appears on a legal list.

If the basis of identifying a species as endangered is a biological decision, then it should be identified as a biological decision. The decision to do something about it is a different kind of decision.

So I would wonder what kinds of recommendations you would make so that we are able to amend this bill so as to allow the biological decisions to be made by the biological experts, and the other decisions, what to do about the species, are decisions that are made that take other considerations into effect.

Dr. David Green: I agree with you, and earlier, perhaps before you came, I said precisely that. COSEWIC can make its list, and if it's not translated into a legal list, then the rest of the bill is just ink on paper.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Exactly. So it seems that there's a bit of a contradiction.

Dr. David Green: So the recommendations we have here in the brief are along the lines of those for which you're asking.

As Mr. Lincoln pointed out, we failed to put in a timeline for the GIC. I didn't think of that. That would be good.

So what we have in here is a recommendation that COSEWIC's list become the legal list. We don't make it legal; the GIC makes it legal. We also have to have provision for public debate and discussion, which, if there's justification and discussion, may allow exemption from that list.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: But how will the GIC make the list legal? How can we ensure that it actually becomes legal, that all your recommendations are listened to because they're based on biology?

It seems to me that we need to provide a firewall. I have to listen to the concerns of a great variety of people, including the Canadian public. I represent the public interest when I come to the table here for the standing committee—

Dr. David Green: Right.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: —and when I take my seat in the House of Commons, I represent the public interest. So I have to try to listen to all of the concerns. I appreciate the fact that you're representing a biological interest.

Dr. David Green: Yes.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: So what I would want to know, and maybe we need more discussion on this, is how we develop a firewall that allows the people like yourself to make the decisions about species and allows that process of creating a legal list to occur so that we know we have a legal list.

You've identified this as a huge problem, which is in many respects contradictory to your public statements on who should do the listing. We need some kind of a firewall that allows individuals like yourself to make these decisions and get the legal listing taken care of, and then the other processes, which have to do with protection of the species, recovery plans, and so on, to occur within a wider frame of discussion.

Dr. David Green: I'd like to see that.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Yes, Mr. Fraser.

Mr. David Fraser: I think the models that have been set up for recovery planning, those steps, go to that in some ways.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Yes.

Dr. David Fraser: The recovery team is responsible for identifying the biological ability of the species to recover and what needs to happen. The initial step is a recovery strategy. So that's an identification of the biological steps.

• 1040

There's nothing in this bill that precludes ministers or jurisdictions from going through that step regardless of whether the species goes on the endangered list, the legal list, or not. So you could actually go through the process of doing that initial strategy whether it's legally on the list or not. If it's on the COSEWIC list, I would suggest that most jurisdictions are going to take a look at the biological potential of the species for recovery.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: But the problem is that if we have a piece of legislation that sets out certain kinds of things, and one is the legal list that triggers a whole series of other actions, if it isn't on the legal list, nothing is going to happen, because they will point to a piece of legislation that says these are the things we're required to do.

Dr. David Green: Absolutely. It's what we've attempted to do in here, in the recommendations. This has some recommendations and amendments to that part of the bill. The brief does not say let's accept that part as written.

I'd like to see the firewall. I'd like to see our list become the legal list. I'd like to ensure that the Governor in Council does it. I have to give them some wiggle room—they're going to demand it anyway. I'd like to see that.

There is a point at which we in COSEWIC, in thinking about it, and deliberating and commenting on the bill, have to stop. We say over and over our little mantra: COSEWIC does not do recovery. So we don't. When it gets into recovery issues, that's where we stop. Many of these provisions are under that heading.

What do you do? We've identified it, it's on the legal list, so then what do you do? At that point you can ask us as scientists, outside of COSEWIC, but at that point, COSEWIC itself stops. So we've stopped.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Right. So I think you need to identify how we develop this firewall.

Dr. Marco Festa-Bianchet (Co-Chair, Department of Biology, University of Sherbrooke; Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada): I think what we're trying to suggest here is that we would like our list to become the legal list, and the COSEWIC list will also exist. I think that's important to point out, that people can also go and see what we consider biologically endangered.

What we're suggesting is something in between the idea that our list becomes automatically the legal list and the way it seems to be set out in the bill, that the minister will decide which species will go on the list. We're saying the GIC should decide which species on the COSEWIC list do not make it into the protected list and explain why.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Yes. The problem is that you're talking about a system of accountability that requires public engagement. As we all know, it's very difficult. There are a few people who do this kind of work, and they're tired and burnt out.

It's very hard to make governments accountable on environmental agendas, on just about any issue. So what we have to do then is ensure that there's an accountability mechanism in the bill, and we have to ensure also that there are good opportunities and mechanisms for public engagement, which is very difficult.

I think maybe the easier way to go is to look at how we make the COSEWIC list a legal list, and build a firewall that allows you to do the work that you do separate from the other kinds of pressures.

Dr. Sherman Boates: I want to offer a suggestion, not something that is a position of anybody in particular.

We could entertain the idea that the exemption wouldn't exempt the species from the entire bill. I think there's quite a bit of interest and concern in some cases that it's the prohibitions section that is driving the exemption idea.

For example—and I'm not saying this is right or wrong, but just offering it as a suggestion—you might still exempt a species from part of the prohibitions but still require that the recovery planning part of the act apply to that, and that could feed back on the prohibitions eventually, because if you had people working constructively on a solution to this problem, it might also affect the concern over the prohibitions.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Yes, and I think this is important. I think we need to look at this a little more creatively to see how we solve real problems—not political problems, but real problems.

Mr. David Fraser: I agree, but I think there are other groups that should be asked this question, other than COSEWIC.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Oh, absolutely, and I will.

Mr. David Fraser: I had a hunch you would.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Thank you very much.

The Chair: Thank you, Madam Kraft Sloan.

• 1045

Dr. Green, in a reply earlier to Mr. Knutson, you indicated that you don't want to put scientists in a position of bowing to pressure groups. Is that correct?

Dr. David Green: Yes.

The Chair: Do you know of any scientist who would bow to pressure groups?

Mr. Julian Reed: I do.

The Chair: Could you name them?

Dr. David Green: Could I name them?

The Chair: Yes.

Dr. David Green: I don't want to put them in that position. I can't name anyone. I don't want to be in a position where I am lobbied. I don't want to be lobbied by a bunch of.... I want to be able to make my decisions. I don't want to have to choose. I don't want to go anywhere near it. I don't want to bow to pressure groups. I'm not about to. I don't want to be pressured, period.

The Chair: So you're implying that scientists could put aside a lifetime reputation and the result of investigations and studies and yield to a pressure group. Is that what happens in the real world?

Dr. David Green: The real world?

The Chair: You have colleagues who act that way?

Dr. David Green: The real world consists of all sorts of folks.

The Chair: You're not answering my question.

Dr. David Green: Somewhere out there in the real world there are people who sell out.

The Chair: Is that how a scientist operates?

Dr. David Green: No, it's not how scientists regularly operate.

The Chair: Then why are you worried about scientists who would bow to pressure groups?

Dr. David Green: It's not the bowing to pressure groups; it's the time it takes. It's a deflection from the deliberations we have to do. It's the interference it causes in trying to do decent science, in trying to do decent assessments. We don't need it, especially if we're not going to bow to it, and we won't.

The Chair: In your note you are divided on this. I don't think you speak for your entire group.

Dr. David Green: No, we're not divided on that issue, that COSEWIC should remain apolitical and not be lobbied. There's no dissension on that point.

The Chair: You're sure?

Dr. David Green: Yes.

The Chair: Do you all concur with that?

Witnesses: Yes.

The Chair: Why? Don't you have other opinions?

Do you also believe that scientists would bow to political pressures for some reason?

Mr. David Fraser: I don't think we should be creating a system where you're not getting the best independent scientific advice on the status of the species. Those people should be allowed to come up with that decision without actually having to think about whether or not that particular piece of scientific reality has any bearing on whether or not a child gets fed in a logging community.

The Chair: May I remind you that Dr. Leslie Harris of Memorial University didn't bow to political pressure when he produced his report on the cod.

Dr. Marco Festa-Bianchet: If I may add something—

The Chair: Yet we had to wait two years, because of socio-economic considerations, to invoke the moratorium.

Sorry, Dr. Festa-Bianchet.

Dr. Marco Festa-Bianchet: When we say bowing to a pressure group, we're not talking about a scientist who has some information and misuses it because of being pressured. We're talking about pressure that could be exerted in all the different steps of producing a COSEWIC report. If there was a group that was interested in having a certain status assigned—I'm talking about groups that may or may not want protection—we would like to avoid as much as possible these groups intervening at the level of the report author, at the level of the provincial jurisdiction that is supposed to feed information to the report author, at the level of the chair who selects an author—

Mr. David Fraser: Or whether COSEWIC even gets the funding to do the report.

Dr. Marco Festa-Bianchet: Right. There are many ways in which the COSEWIC process could be interfered with. They would not be pressure groups in the sense that they would lie about what's happening to the species, but they could considerably hinder our ability to obtain the information we need to make a decision. I think that's what we mean.

The Chair: You mean industry would deny you access to the oceans in order to determine whether a species is dying?

Dr. Marco Festa-Bianchet: No, but they may put pressure on provincial representatives who are supposed to provide the information; they may put pressure on the report author; they may threaten to sue some of the people involved. That's the kind of thing that would worry them.

The Chair: Well, maybe I have a higher opinion of scientists than you have. Is that possible?

• 1050

Dr. Sherman Boates: I think what Marco was also saying was there is interfering with the scientists themselves, but there is also the interference with the process of making the assessment. I guess we're entangling those two.

The Chair: Tell me, on recommendation 20, was it an oversight or was it thought through, the omission of species of concern in that listing—special concern?

Dr. David Green: Yes, it leaves out special concern. This may be an oversight, I think, in writing that. Special concern is a different level of protection. This is the endangered list, the at-risk list, and special concern is a different category. It doesn't have the same status as these. So the legal endangered list is those things; special concern is another category.

Dr. Sherman Boates: I think what happened is you just left off schedule 2.

Dr. David Green: Well, pencil that in then where it occurs. That's an oversight. Thanks for pointing that out to me.

The Chair: Can you give us a scenario for clause 22 when a minister may recommend to do exactly the opposite of what you have requested by regulation? In what situation would that occur?

Dr. David Green: I would hope to see this operating along the lines as suggested. COSEWIC's list is has made the legal list. Except where there is a species where there is a great deal of social concern, the prohibitions coming into play will compromise livelihoods.... It needs further discussion. There has to be perhaps a bit more time to think about the implications of it. If there is that kind of justification, done after consultation, mindful of COSEWIC's report, and talking to the right people, then the minister may have that discretion.

I wouldn't deny the minister the right to take that step, be cautious and explain it thoroughly, well, it's not on there—so then we know. It's what governments do. They do that. And it's part of recovery then. How you deal with this information then becomes important.

That's the kind of scenario I would see. It's out of my hands. It would be up to the minister.

I'm saying if that action is taken...we have thoroughly documented and justified what should be on the list. If you ain't going to put it on the list, the early document, justify that. That's okay. Then we know.

The Chair: So the minister would come in from a completely different perspective from yours and be motivated by considerations that are not scientific. Is that what you mean?

Mr. David Fraser: Maybe I can answer that. Say, for instance, COSEWIC, based on the best biological information, decided that some species of insect was indeed biologically endangered, but that species of insect was a disease vector that caused human death. You may well not want to have a prohibition against slapping it.

The Chair: Can you name that species?

Mr. David Fraser: No. That's a hypothetical example, but it's not impossible to imagine such things might exist.

Dr. Sherman Boates: It's still an endangered species. We're just not going to do anything about it.

The Chair: Well, until you name the species, I think it's highly hypothetical, as you say.

• 1055

Dr. David Green: The smallpox vector is an endangered species.

The Chair: We'll now turn to Mr. Lincoln on the second round.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Dr. Boates, you are pretty familiar with the Nova Scotia law and what happened. In Nova Scotia the scientific listing becomes automatic, and the independence of the committee is sanctioned in the law. I believe 17 species are listed in Nova Scotia.

Dr. Sherman Boates: There are ten now, and a second set ready to come up. These are—

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Whatever the number, let's leave it.

Dr. Sherman Boates: Okay, fine.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Are you a member of the committee there in Nova Scotia?

Dr. Sherman Boates: Yes.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Have you and your members been lobbied in Nova Scotia?

Dr. Sherman Boates: No.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: That's interesting. In Nova Scotia there's no lobbying, but there would be lobbying somewhere else. This has become almost like a bogeyman now, the lobbying. I wonder how true it is. Certainly it's hypothetical, if I can say, because there's no proof that it would be the case. The only place where listing is automatic by an independent body, which is in Nova Scotia, on the contrary the proof is that there has been no lobbying.

Dr. Sherman Boates: Can I respond to that, based on an earlier question you mentioned, which I didn't get to?

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Yes.

Dr. Sherman Boates: I think it's very useful to compare the Nova Scotia experience with the broader national experience, but there are a couple of issues we need to look at, which I tried to mention. One is that we started this just after the accord was put together, so we were learning as we went along. That's one qualification.

Another qualification is with regard to the matter of scale, and I think it applies as well to your point about the committee. We have five scientists on our committee. We are dealing with fewer species. We're dealing with a smaller geographical realm. I'm not using that as an excuse. I'm just saying that matters of scale are important, because once you start looking at a whole country and hundreds of species and a much bigger committee, the issue of scale has important implications for the federal bill that may not be as important on a local level. That was really the point that I think needs a little bit of clarification.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: How many people are on your committee?

Dr. Sherman Boates: There are five scientists. It's chaired by myself, and I don't vote.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: It's a committee of five scientists. In the present COSEWIC I understand that you have 27 or 28.

Dr. David Green: There are 28.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: How many are government and how many are non-government?

Dr. David Green: There are representatives from four federal agencies, the ten provinces, and three territories, making seventeen.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: There are seventeen government representatives.

Dr. David Green: And the rest may or may not be government, but mostly are not government.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: My figures are that there are 24 that are government or para-government and four that are completely outside the realm. That's 24 and four.

Dr. David Green: How'd you do that?

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: That's the information I have. You say there are seventeen, but then you say that the rest of them may or may not be government. Are they or aren't they?

Dr. David Green: Seventeen are guaranteed to be government. Of the other ones, we'll go through the specialist group: reptiles and amphibians, not government; birds, currently they are government folks—

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Okay, that's eighteen.

Dr. David Green: —mammals, not government—

Mr. David Fraser: One government.

Dr. David Green: Half and half.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: That's nineteen.

Dr. Marco Festa-Bianchet: There are two co-chairs. I'm with the university—

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Anyway, my information is that it's 24 to four. Say it's nineteen to seven.

Dr. David Green: There are more government folks than not.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: In Bill C-65 there was a provision whereby half would be non-government and all members would be vetted by the Royal Society of Canada. Do you agree that we should adopt the same formula here?

Dr. David Green: The formula we have now is working for us. The jurisdictions bring a lot of information. It's the jurisdictions and the scientists on their staff who do a lot of the slog work and bring in the information. They're part of the recovery plans when they come about.

• 1100

Who becomes a member of COSEWIC? As long as they are qualified, able to do the job, and bring information to it, that's fine with me. The model we have serves that purpose. The fact that they come from government doesn't really enter into it once we're around the table and close the door. The fact that Sherman comes from Nova Scotia...when we're there, we ask him what news is there in Nova Scotia. If we ask Sherman what the Nova Scotia government thinks, that's immaterial. What does your director think? It doesn't matter. If I hear talk about information gleaned from Nova Scotia about Nova Scotia populations that he knows a lot about....

He's not there to speak the party line, to be the government spokesman. He's there as a scientist, as an expert. And that works for us. It gets us this information we need. It brings us experts we need in order to discuss this. There have been, over time, more and more non-government people around the table. When COSEWIC began twenty or more years ago, it was all government people, all of it. It has changed considerably. The specialist groups and the independent members are non-government and are bringing perspectives. We have more and more people now from universities, and that was not true 10 years ago.

How we get the people who are needed to cover the breadth of information required on an enormous variety of species...there is one way and there could be other ways. As long as we cover it, we're fine.

Dr. Sherman Boates: I just want to comment on exactly the same thing, and that is basically that COSEWIC has had a huge discussion about what COSEWIC would see as being the best COSEWIC. In a nutshell, it was decided that COSEWIC was basically a good model. Let's just fix the little bits that are broken, such as the question about government influence on COSEWIC. We thought that was a better model than going completely to something different and picking up some scientists, very well qualified but without the experience, and avoiding some of those government people who were the very best people in the country to do some of this work. So we made some suggestions about how to make the government people on there better able to act in their capacity as scientists rather than representing their particular political jurisdiction.

One further point is that there's a regional side to this. The jurisdictional representatives who make up quite a large part of COSEWIC—there's someone from the east, someone from the middle, someone from the west. That is a very important part of the mix because we get the whole picture of this vast country, not just from the centres where the universities are and that kind of thing.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Don't misunderstand me. I have nothing against government people. On the contrary, I have a lot of regard for COSEWIC. What we're talking about is what is the best formula to make it an independent body. That's what we're talking about. In Bill C-65, my little brain tells me it was a great formula where you had half government and half non-government, vetted by the Royal Society of Canada, which is beyond reproach, to ensure that in the public's mind there was a body that was truly seen with the best possibilities we have before us to be as independent as possible.

You say fine, Dr. Green. You get in there and you're non-government people. You're scientists. But at the same time you say, oh, yes, we're non-government when we get together; we are not subject to influences. At the same time, you're scared of being lobbied by industry. I can't understand that. Either you're one or the other. If you're truly independent as government people who get there and become COSEWIC scientists, biologists, and chemists, or whatever, you turn around and say, yes, but I don't want that independence; I would rather give it to cabinet or the minister.

• 1105

Are you going to suggest to me that any one of these cabinets, whether it's the B.C. cabinet, the Nova Scotia cabinet, Quebec, or the federal government, has no influence on government people and can't just send the message, hey, listen, you're really gumming up the works here? The idea was to have a balanced body, it seemed to me, that was half government and half non-government, so that this possible influence couldn't be there.

Dr. David Green: What saves us is the no veto. No one can come in with marching orders from their government to stymie the process. It can't be done. You can't have someone come from a province saying you must not allow this specie to go through, you must squish this, vote no, don't agree to anything. You can't do that. There's no veto. It can't be overturned.

I agree with you that the best-mix folks would be fine. The Royal Society is a wonderful bunch of folks. I know a lot of members of the Royal Society. They don't know everything either, but they're good people.

For me, though, the set-up we have is working. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If you want to fix it, we'll make it work. It's the principle of it, of the scientific inquiry, of the independence of being able to decide which species merit investigation, to do the investigations, to make the assessment—that's what's important. If the people on COSEWIC do that and abide by the rules, and we achieve the breadth of expertise and coverage of the country that enables us to do a job of it, that's all we require. I think we have it covered. It's working.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Just one last, brief question.

Admitting we leave COSEWIC as it is, I just want to find out, through all this discussion we have had, so that I do not lose the thread of it.... I don't see it clearly in the amendments you have suggested.

We have 353-odd species that have been listed. The review you have already carried out, the ones that are non-controversial and you have updated—say, it's 125 or 130, something like this. Do I understand that you would be quite happy to see that 125 listed as a legal starting list in the bill when the bill is proclaimed?

Dr. David Green: I wouldn't object to that, no.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: No, you wouldn't object to it, but wouldn't you prefer to see it? There's a big distinction, not objecting and being pleased that it happens, being proactive with it, so that we can have some leverage to suggest that it happens. Surely if it's your list, then it has been vetted by you and checked by you and reviewed by you, and you're happy that it's an up-to-date list. What is the argument for not having it as a start-up list in the bill? Is there any?

Dr. Dave Fraser: To be honest, I don't think it ever occurred to us that it wasn't the start-up list for the bill.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Well, it isn't. There's no start-up list in the bill.

Dr. David Green: We were busy preparing for the 30 days in which we had to provide a list—we had 30 days to do it—and we—

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: In this present bill now there is no start-up list. It's purely at the discretion of the government whether it does or it doesn't and when it does and it doesn't.

Dr. David Green: We figured we were going to provide a list and that would be the list that would go in and be done.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: It isn't.

Dr. Marco Festa-Bianchet: It's a surprise for us.

Dr. David Green: Then a start-up list would be a good thing.

Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Dr. Green, may I say something, because you have a lot of credibility as a body. I think it would be nice if you wrote a letter to the committee saying, yes, we thought a start-up list was in there, but we would be very happy to see it in the.... I don't talk about the 353, because some people are going to say, oh, well, some of it is not updated. Even if we had the updated list to start with, it would be a big step forward. It would be great if you would do this.

Dr. David Green: Okay.

The Chair: Thank you.

Madame Redman, Mr. Knutson, Madame Kraft Sloan, and the chair.

• 1110

Mrs. Karen Redman: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I just wondered if COSEWIC had looked at the aspect of the five-year review and if you had discussed it and wanted to make any comment or had any opinion as to the efficacy of having a five-year review built into the SARA legislation.

Dr. David Green: The five-year review of...?

Mrs. Karen Redman: Of the legislation, just to look at the processes, whether they're working, the recovery plans—how it's working when it actually gets on the ground.

Dr. David Green: That's outside of COSEWIC's concerns and we didn't examine that.

Mrs. Karen Redman: Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you.

Mr. Knutson.

Mr. Gar Knutson: I don't have any questions.

The Chair: Madam Kraft Sloan.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: One of the things that I have been told by proponents of the current structure of the bill with regard to legal listing and the GIC is that if the GIC doesn't act on your recommendations, we're going to have this hue and cry across the land and people are going to be very upset. So there is this idea put forward that there's going to be a lot of uproar from the public. My view on that is a little different, and you heard me speak about that earlier.

If that actually is true and actually will happen, that means your list is a very important list. Right? If what they say is true, that the way the bill is currently written and that people will get very angry out there in the public and people will try to hold the government accountable and that sort of thing, they'll get angry that GIC is not acting on your recommendations. Is that true?

Dr. David Green: Yes.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: That makes what you do very important. Therefore you're going to be subject to lobbying anyway, are you not?

Dr. David Green: We have had people come who have asked to be observers and have stated their piece and have tried to influence us. This has happened, and we have said, “Thank you very much. We're not influenced by political concerns. We appreciate your coming and learning how we do our business. We have learned from each other, thank you very much.” Then we do our thing. It has happened and we deal with it in kind.

We do not take lobbying, we do stick to our guns, and we do make our recommendations and our assessments as we say we do.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: So whether your list is the actual legal list or whether it's following through with what the bill says, it's still going to have essentially the same effect on you.

Dr. David Green: There is the other forum that is allowed to people, and I think—I don't know—that would enable people to go and lobby you rather than me. It's your job. My job is different. Keep those realms separate.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: I guess the point I'm trying to make is the COSEWIC list is not as important now as it will be if this legislation comes into effect.

Dr. David Green: Yes and no. Right now COSEWIC's list is the only list.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Right.

Dr. David Green: If this comes into effect there will be COSEWIC's list, which you can all see, and then there will be the legal list, which will have all that other weight behind it. COSEWIC's list will still exist. Right now it's the only one.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: But under the way the bill is currently drafted, as I said earlier, there will be a huge hue and cry across the land—according to what I've been told—if GIC does not act on your recommendations. Therefore, the source, which is the COSEWIC list, is going to be important. It's going to be more important than it is now, because there are no automatic triggers to act on COSEWIC.

• 1115

Dr. David Green: We're under no illusions that the list we produce and our work is of importance. We have worked very hard in the past couple of years to make sure that how we do these things is well documented, well vetted, put out for everyone to see, to make sure that the reports we produce will be published. They're readily available now, but we'll make them even more available so that they can be published for everyone to have. We're well aware of the importance of this, and we're well aware of making sure the documentation is there, that all the information is in place and everything is right, as never before. We're aware of that and we've been doing that.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: If we go back to Mr. Lincoln's earlier questioning, you said that you've had discussions with COSEWIC and decided that the way things are working now is the way you would like to continue working, in terms of the makeup of COSEWIC. You feel that's a good—

Dr. David Green: It's okay.

Dr. Sherman Boates: That's a little bit of an oversimplication. What I'd said was that we went through an exercise where we decided that the basic model that we have was the best way to go forward, but there were parts and aspects to COSEWIC and its connection to the bill that needed to be fixed or improved. So it's the basic model we agreed to, not that the kind of status quo COSEWIC has been the same. There have been some quite good changes in COSEWIC over the last three to four years that wouldn't be recognizable to many people.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: But as your list becomes more important—because according to the way the bill is currently drafted, this is the list the government has to be accountable to—if the government can remove a thorn of accountability.... I guess I would go back to some of the logic Mr. Lincoln was working on here: that if you have 19 to 8 or 24 to 4 that are government members of COSEWIC, are their attitudes going to start to change when your work becomes more important, as a thorn in the government's side?

Dr. David Green: I hope not. I hope you can build this through the firewall you've been talking about.

We're under no illusions that the work's important. We're trying to do the best job we can. I think we do a very good job. I think what we've pulled together in the assessments we make we're sure about. If we're not sure, we say we don't know.

We'd like you to help us to do that. And I appreciate the help to do that. I don't want to have our government members feel pressured by their governments to vote en bloc in certain ways. That would kill us. I don't want that. I don't want hordes of lobbyists to come in to try to persuade us one way or the other. I don't want that either.

I want COSEWIC to be able to do its job for you and for the Canadian public, so that we get it right so that everyone knows, as best we can, what the status of these species are, so that all the goodwill, money, and efforts that have been put into preserving these species and protecting the habitats across the country can be done on a firm footing. Help us do that. That's what we want to do. What we've suggested is our thoughts about how we can do that.

There are sincere attempts to try to come to exactly what you're talking about. They haven't done it perfectly, but their ideas and suggestions and recommendations we ask to be explicit—as explicit as we can make them—in order to do that. So I wanted to work with you and get you to help us to do that.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Well, maybe after our discussion this morning you may have some other ideas.

Dr. David Green: Possibly so.

Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: And you're more than welcome to make another submission to the committee, through the chair and the clerk.

The Chair: Thank you, Madame Kraft Sloan.

We'll conclude. Just allow me two brief questions.

Dr. Festa-Bianchet, would you bring the committee up to date on what is happening in the province of Quebec in coming forward with strong legislation, considering the fact that under the present legislation, of the species listed, some 24% or so—working from memory—have been adopted by the government and the others have not?

• 1120

Dr. Marco Festa-Bianchet: I live in Quebec, but obviously I cannot speak for what's happening in Quebec and what has to do with the Quebec government. There is provincial legislation for the protection of species. There is a list of species that are protected and a list of species susceptible to be included on the list. I can't really speak to you in terms of what the Quebec government is planning to do or whether it's planning to change. I'm just a professor at the university. I have nothing to do with it. In fact, I have nothing to do with the Quebec process of listing species. I have personal opinions, but I could not say anything as a COSEWIC representative in that sense.

The Chair: Do you have any comments to offer about the fact that some 24% of the species declared as being endangered have been adopted by the Government of Quebec?

Dr. Marco Festa-Bianchet: You mean of the COSEWIC...? The only comment I would offer is that my understanding of the process of getting species into the Quebec provincial legislation is very slow. That may explain why there is this delay. Obviously that is a discrepancy that should not happen. Each province has their own organization.

The Chair: That leads to the next question, and that is whether COSEWIC as a whole is making representations to the provincial governments to ensure a higher percentage of compliance.

Dr. Marco Festa-Bianchet: No, that's not part of COSEWIC's job.

Dr. David Green: That's not our job.

Dr. Marco Festa-Bianchet: We don't tell the provinces what to do. We give a national list with a national status classification of species, but we cannot tell a province to do this or—

The Chair: Dr. Boates, this is not related to Nova Scotia, because it has a very high record in this respect, but the other nine provinces are badly lagging in adopting, politically, the recommendation, the numbers of species recommended by their respective scientific bodies.

Dr. Sherman Boates: I'd like to comment on that, and this is a comment about how we look at law as a tool for protecting species at risk. It's only one of the tools in the toolbox. The most important determinant of how that toolbox is used is this COSEWIC species list. Before there was an accord, before there was a Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act, there was a lot of work going on on endangered species. One might say it wasn't enough or it wasn't good enough, and that's fine. But it's important to consider that law is not the only thing that's going to drive endangered species conservation in Canada. The COSEWIC list will be used by non-government organizations, by communities, by many other people than just the federal endangered species legal list side of it.

I think it's important, and this is something that's been frustrating even for a province like Nova Scotia, which has the law in place. We often get pats on the back for doing the law, but very rarely do people go the step deeper and look at the programs and the progress we've made outside of law.

So I think when we're evaluating how Quebec is doing or how B.C. is doing, it is critical that we do get to the broader issue beyond just the legal tool.


The Chair: Thank you.

Dr. Green, the last question is addressed to you. It relates to clause 40, which, as you know, provides that a competent minister is expected to determine whether the recovery of listed wildlife species is technically or biologically feasible, based on best available information, including information provided by you people at COSEWIC. Can you tell us under which conditions would a recovery not be technically feasible?

Dr. David Green: Something is extinct. That would do it.

The Chair: Would you launch a recovery for an extinct species in the first place?

Dr. David Green: This is recovery, I'm afraid, and it's outside of what COSEWIC does. I haven't studied that yet. It refers to recovery planning, and any recovery plan should use the information that COSEWIC has devised in order to plot its course. The exact wording of it, I have no comment on.

• 1125

COSEWIC has done a lot of the preliminary research. There is always more research, negotiating, and figuring out that needs to be done in any recovery plan. COSEWIC kicks off these things, and then COSEWIC's role is ended. COSEWIC is stopped. So it's outside, from that point, of what we do.

The Chair: All right. I thought you might have some suggestions to make in that regard.

We are very glad that you were able to come today. We find your input to be very enlightening.

We're also glad that together you have discovered that the bill as presently drafted does not include the short list that you thought was included. So perhaps you may want to follow Mr. Lincoln's suggestion by way of a letter to the committee.

We may see you again. We thank you for the fine work you're doing on behalf of the global community, and we wish you well.

Dr. David Green: Thank you very much.

The Chair: This meeting stands adjourned.