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Federal environment minister fails caribou in new agreement with Ontario

Deal encourages destructive practices in habitat for next 5 years

TORONTO (April 26, 2022) – A newly signed agreement between Canada and Ontario will do more harm than good for threatened boreal caribou in the province, leading environmental groups say. The agreement, released on Earth Day, ironically encourages the clearing of habitat and fails to rein in the destructive practices that are responsible for putting caribou at risk in the first place, the groups describe in a scathing rebuke.

“For a minister who has scaled the CN Tower for climate and is nicknamed ‘Green Jesus’ in Québec, this is a betrayal of his promise to halt and reverse nature loss,” says Anna Baggio, Conservation Director, Wildlands League. “The agreement locks in and funds five more years of delays and destructive practices,” Baggio added.

“Minister Guilbeault has prioritized relations with the provincial government over safeguarding habitat,” says Rachel Plotkin, Boreal Project Manager of David Suzuki Foundation. “We’ve seen Minister after Minister, and bureaucrat after bureaucrat wait for Ontario to do the right thing instead of taking action. The sad thing is, after all this waiting, the province is still aiding and abetting habitat destruction,” Plotkin adds.

“It’s shocking. This agreement doesn’t just delay restoring caribou habitat, it greenlights more habitat destruction,” says Julee Boan, Boreal Program Manager, Ontario Nature.

“This is the weakest conservation agreement in Canada,” says Josh Ginsberg, lawyer, Ecojustice. “The agreement contains no concrete measures to protect critical habitat, nor any plan to create them. Further, the agreement fails to meet critical habitat protection obligations under the Species at Risk Act. We continue to expect the federal government to fulfil its duty to ensure effective legal protection for this iconic species.”

Instead of addressing the concerns identified in the latest Auditor General of Ontario report, the final agreement rubber stamps Ontario’s broken policy framework governing threatened wildlife. It contains no commitment or targets for the protection or restoration of critical caribou habitat. It ignores the negative and cumulative impacts industrial logging, road building, drilling and blasting are having that impede the recovery of caribou, the groups say.

Further, the agreement includes misleading claims that the province’s controversial forestry policies are now part of an overall “Boreal Caribou Conservation Framework” for Ontario. These practices continue to damage and destroy critical caribou habitat, are not consistent with the latest science and do not provide mandatory, enforceable protection for habitat.

There are only 5,000 caribou (and likely even less) remaining in Ontario, and many existing populations are in decline. More than 20,000 people urged the federal environment minister to take a strong stand for long-beleaguered caribou in Ontario as he is now promising to do in Québec. Both provinces have had over a decade to put in protections and failed. The minister is taking a welcome stand in Québec. In Ontario, however, it’s a different story. Caribou here appear doomed to five more years of delays and inaction.

For media inquiries, please contact

Anna Baggio, Conservation Director | Wildlands League
416-453-3285 mobile

Rachel Plotkin, Boreal Project Manager | David Suzuki Foundation

John Hassell, Director of Communications and Engagement | Ontario Nature


Wildlands League is a not-for-profit charity that has been working to protect public lands and resources in Ontario since 1968, beginning with a campaign to protect Algonquin Park from development.

Ontario Nature is a charitable organization that has been working to protect Ontario’s wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement since 1931.

The David Suzuki Foundation is a national, non-profit organization that uses evidence-based research, education and policy analysis to conserve and protect the natural environment, and help create a sustainable Canada.