IT’S EASY to believe in a world of simplicity, where being “open for business” trumps all else. We all have to deal with complexity in our lives — with nuance, with ambiguity. We all want to live in a world where human livelihoods and nature can coexist.

We know that’s important when, just recently, the United Nations issued a devastating report. It demonstrates that extinctions of organisms are now occurring at rates “tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the last 10 million years.” As many as a million species are at risk of disappearing in the next few decades — About an eighth of all Earth’s life forms.

However, just last month Ontario’s government announced its intention to gut the province’s Endangered Species Act. The new provisions include allowing developers to pay into a fund rather than do what is necessary to ensure the survival of an endangered species on a site. Other changes include allowing sweeping authorizations for developers to undertake harmful activities in multiple locations, removing the requirement of the minister to consult scientific experts on endangered species, allowing the appointment of non-scientists to the technical panel on endangered species conservation, and allowing the minister to ask the species at risk status committee to reconsider its recommendations on an arbitrary basis.

The public has been granted only until this Saturday to comment on these drastic changes, using the Environmental Registry of Ontario (ERO). The four separate ERO numbers on this topic in the registry make the process more difficult and confusing for ordinary folk. (Perhaps that is the government’s intention.)

The Quetico Foundation has championed the needs of Quetico Provincial Park and other natural features in Northwestern Ontario for 65 years. We know that the welfare of nature, of tourism, of Indigenous communities, and most important, of all our children and grandchildren, depends on maintaining healthy natural environments. The Endangered Species Act is a critical component in that balance. Don’t let anybody fool you that you must let go of ecological integrity to make a buck now. It just isn’t true.

Please make your views on the Endangered Species Act known now through the Environmental Registry of Ontario. The proposed changes on the Endangered Species Act are open for public comment until May 18. Visit ero.ontario.ca and search for “013-5033” to find a link to the file.

Roger Suffling

Quetico Foundation science committee member

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