Critical Habitat Protection and Animal Welfare

The 1992 United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity represents the international commitment to habitat protection for threatened species. It requires that Canada legislate and implement measures to identify and protect habitat for wildlife. In 1996, the federal, provincial, and territorial governments agreed to take steps to ensure Canada meets these commitments. The Species at Risk Act (Canada) is federal legislation with rules governing the listing of threatened species, recovery planning, and the prohibition of harm to listed species and critical habitat. This federal legislation has limited application in Alberta. The Wildlife Act (Alberta) and its regulations are Alberta’s governing legislative framework for critical habitat protection and animal welfare, but this framework largely grants officials with discretionary authority rather than impose obligations on recovery planning and protections. Clinic projects focus on ensuring Canada and Alberta comply with their commitment to protect habitat for threatened species, as well as advocate for animal welfare more generally.

Our Projects

The Clinic has worked with several environmental non-governmental organizations in Alberta in efforts to protect what remains of critical habitat for westslope cutthroat trout. In 2015, the Clinic was retained by the Alberta Wilderness Association to advise on commencing legal proceedings to require the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to issue a critical habitat order under the Species at Risk Act (Canada) (SARA). 

The Clinic was retained by a local veterinarian in 2016 who had evidence that horses were being transported out of the Calgary airport in a manner that caused them undue suffering and under conditions which did not comply with the rules set out in federal legislation. Our client was also concerned that federal rules were not consistent with international standards for the humane transportation of livestock. 

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) successfully applied to participate as an intervener in the impact assessment process to make submissions and give evidence on impacts of the proposed mine on Wood Buffalo National Park, the Peace-Athabasca Delta, the endangered whooping crane migratory bird species, and Canada’s commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) retained the Clinic as legal counsel to represent CPAWS at the impact assessment hearing which took place in the Fall 2020. As legal counsel, the Clinic advised and assisted CPAWS with hearing preparation, written argument, evidence submission, preparation of witnesses, cross-examination, final argument, and cost submissions.

The Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative Society (Y2Y) retained the Clinic as legal counsel to advise Y2Y on seeking intervener status in the Fall of 2021 and to represent Y2Y in the Tribunal appeal proceedings which took place remotely in March 2022. As legal counsel, the Clinic assisted Y2Y with hearing preparation, written argument, evidence submission, preparation of witnesses, and final argument.

The Cochrane Ecological Institute (CEI) is an internationally recognized charity dedicated to the rehabilitation and reintroduction of wildlife, with specialized equipment and wildlife expertise on site. CEI has been operating since the mid 1960s west of Calgary. In addition to its rehabilitation work, CEI also advocates for law and policy reform in relation to wildlife and threatened species. CEI has worked extensively with research staff and students at the University of Calgary over the years, and the Clinic has assisted CEI with legal and policy analysis to support its orphan black bear cub rehabilitation work.

Bighill Creek Preservation Society is a non-profit organization with a mandate to advocate for the protection of the Bighill Creek watershed. The Society filed a statement of concern under the Water Act (Alberta) to oppose the gravel mine. The Clinic has provided the Society with assistance in filing its statement of concern and has informed the Society about its opportunities to participate in the decision-making process under applicable legislation.