Preface by Kenneth W. Cox
This paper serves two principal objectives. First, it describes the policy and legislative framework for wetland conservation in Canada as of January, 1999. In so doing, it charts the substantial progress of Canadian governments in developing and implementing wetland policy since the Council's 1993 review A Coming of Age: Policy for Wetland Conservation in Canada. It also provides the first comprehensive summary of Canadian legislation for wetland conservation at the federal, provincial and territorial levels.
Second, this paper provides a benchmark for the development and exchange of ideas about objectives and strategies for maintaining wetlands as healthy, functioning elements of our landscapes. It is meant to provide model approaches for jurisdictions within and outside of Canada who are looking to construct their own frameworks for conservation. It also may help to kick-start more activity to adopt and implement strong policy and legal frameworks to ensure that wetlands continue to provide critical water, habitat and energy cycling functions so Important to the health and well-being of Canadians.
Canadian experience in wetland conservation over the last few decades has taught us that the real driving force for conservation is not found in the pieces of paper that this report describes, but in the people who support it. It is people who challenge their governments to make the right decisions about wetlands under their purview. It is people who convince and enable industry, businesses or community groups to do what is in the best interest of conservation and ultimately in the best interest of creating a sustainable, healthy environment and economy.
Canada and its political jurisdictions have demonstrated leadership in the area of wetland policy and legislative development. So too have they been assertive in creating agencies and guidelines to evaluate and monitor potential or actual environmental damage to an area because of development on the landscape. Progress has been made, but wetland losses are still occurring. Now is not the time to rest, as more effort needs to be directed toward policy development and wetland conservation in general. This document provides guidance toward that end by pulling together the relevant policy and legislation across Canada, so Canadians can assess the strengths and weaknesses in existing policy and legislation.
So perhaps the most Important value of this paper is to share with Canadians the details of the visions, promises and legal commitments of their governments regarding wetlands. This knowledge will help Canadians to hold governments accountable for their actions.