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Challenges In Conserving Biodiversity

Live-streamed on January 28, 2014

Canada’s identity, economy and society are deeply rooted in its natural resources. Federal measures like the creation of National Parks and Species at Risk Act were created to protect its natural landscapes with diverse flora and fauna.  However, a recent report by the Office of the Auditor General has revealed some gaps in biodiversity protection efforts that should be addressed:

  • Legislative requirements under the Species at Risk Act have not been met.
  • Environment Canada has assessed ecological integrity to be less than adequate in over one half of its wildlife protected areas.
  • Although protecting ecological integrity is the first priority for Parks Canada, less than half of the ecosystems it assessed in 2011 were in good condition.
  • Environment Canada has completed less than half of the Bird Conservation Region Strategies it committed to finishing by 2010.

In this video a panel of three experts discuss biodiversity in Canada.  What is biodiversity and why is it important?  What is the status of Canada’s biodiversity protection efforts?  What can ordinary people do to help?    

Dr. Jeannette Whitton is an Associate Professor in the Department of Botany at the University of British Columbia.  She completed a B.Sc. in Environmental Biology at McGill and a Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut.  Her research in the area of plant evolution focuses on understanding how new species arise, and what happens when related species interbreed in nature. She also serves as Director of the UBC Herbarium, part of UBC’s Beaty Biodiversity Museum, which is dedicated to documenting and promoting research into the Flora of BC. For the last seven years, she has been a member of COSEWIC, the scientific panel that assesses the status of Canadian Wildlife. Together with colleagues, she has investigated the early performance of Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), with the aim of identifying factors associated with good outcomes for species, and contributing to discussion on SARA implementation. 

Neil Maxwell is the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development for the Office of the Auditor General.  Mr. Maxwell received his Master of Public Administration and Bachelor of Arts degrees from Queen’s University. He has experience in performance auditing in a wide range of federal organizations, most recently involving agriculture, health, the environment, and government-wide activities such as those related to effectiveness measurement reporting. He has led many audits in areas relating to the environment and sustainable development including: fish habitat and oceans management; climate change impacts and adaptation; sustainable technologies, green procurement; federal sustainable development strategies; pesticides management and regulation; chemical regulation; public access to environmental assessments; contaminated sites; invasive species; and environmentally sustainable agriculture.

James Casey has worked with WWF-Canada for the past 7 years in the conservation sectors efforts to see an Ecosystem Based management plan developed for the Great Bear. He also campaigns to keep projects that are inconsistent with healthy ecosystems, like the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project pipeline, out of the Great Bear. Personally convinced that the largest challenge for future generations will be finding a way to prosper on a finite planet, James has joined the growing ranks of people seeking to establish a gentler relationship between society and the natural world. James is working on a new BC water act that implements environmental flow standards across BC as well as working with sustainable industries to find ways to limit their impacts on our rivers. His Masters work explored the various ecologically informed worldviews and their implications for the management of international transboundary rivers around the world. It has become clear to James that regardless of the conservation challenges we face, only those communities that invest in developing social capital will be able to deliver innovative solutions that maintain and grow natural capital.  


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