Domesticating the Exotic Species: International Biodiversity Law in Canada

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While a significant body of international and regional agreements now addresses habitat preservation, wildlife protection, and biological diversity, these advances on the international level often fail to be effectively translated into domestic law. In this article, the author argues that international biodiversity law is being treated in Canada as "exotic". It is peppered into parties' submissions without a principled explanation of its role in Canadian law, receives little consideration from the courts, and must ultimately rely on non-legal means of enforcement. The author examines the jurisprudence dealing with four major biodiversity treaties. She notes that the judicial treatment of these conventions ranges from silence, to declarations of inapplicability, to limited usage in statutory interpretation. This impoverished view of international biodiversity law in Canadian courtrooms is contrasted with the richer understanding of the relevance of this body of law demonstrated by its usage in environmental advocacy campaigns. The author focuses on two case studies: the 1992-2002 campaign for federal endangered species legislation, and the ongoing Cheviot mine campaign. In these campaigns, compliance with international biodiversity law is pursued through various shaming strategies. The author concludes that both the judiciary and environmental advocacy groups have a role to play in identifying where Canada fails to give domestic effect to the obligations it assumes under ratified biodiversity treaties, and in addressing this failure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)217-251
JournalMcGill Law Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2006

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