Environmentalists demand Ottawa adhere to deadlines 0
Brian McLaughlin says the government has not yet failed to make final deadlines for plans to help endangered species. (SCREEN GRAB SUN NEWS)
Environmental groups wrapped up their case against two government ministries in federal court in Vancouver Thursday.
The groups, including EcoJustice, Greenpeace and others, alleged Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Environment Canada delayed recovery strategies for four endangered species in British Columbia.
Lawyers for the groups argued the proposed strategies were submitted more than four years past their deadlines and wanted a judge to order Ottawa to submit final strategies by deadline.
They also wanted the judge to declare the timelines were unlawfully broken and supervise the government to ensure future ones are met.
Brian McLaughlin, counsel for the federal ministries, said there’s no dispute the first deadlines were missed, but added the final ones will kept.
“Under the Species at Risk Act there’s no real dispute to settle,” he said. “Those final recovery strategies aren’t done yet, so you can’t say the minister has failed to do something when the time for doing it hasn’t arrived.”
McLaughlin said the situation is up in the air and depends on if the ministries submit their strategies by deadlines, if not the case could end up in court again.
Lawyers for the environmental groups argued in court Thursday the government needs to be pushed to submit the strategies as well as future ones.
“We need something more than just exposing the minister species by species to potential litigation,” EcoJustice lawyer Sean Nixon said to federal Justice Anne MacTavish.
The group filed its case on behalf of the Pacific humpback whale, Nechako white sturgeon, marbled murrelet and southern mountain caribou.
But they are hoping the outcome affects the plans for a further 160 endangered species.
They have argued the delays have made it easier for the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline to be approved without proper understanding of long-term impacts.
Whether the case ends up in court again could depend on if the deadlines for the strategies are met.