Skip booklet index and go to page content

Canadian Biodiversity Strategy


Although the term 'biodiversity' is relatively new to policy-makers, scientists have been warning of a global crisis for some time and have ranked the decline of biodiversity as one of the most serious global environmental threats now facing humanity. As a result of human activities, ecosystem , species and genetic diversity are being eroded at a rate that far exceeds natural processes. This accelerating decline in diversity threatens the ecological, economic, spiritual, recreational and cultural benefits that we currently derive from the Earth's living resources.

What is Biological Diversity?

  • Often referred to as "biodiversity", biological diversity refers to the variety of species and ecosystems on Earth and the ecological processes of which they are a part.
  • Three components of biodiversity are ecosystem, species and genetic diversity.
  • Ecosystems perform functions that are essential to human existence such as oxygen and soil production and water purification.

The Convention on Biological Diversity - A New Understanding

Early in the 1990s, the world community acknowledged the threat posed by degradation of ecosystems and loss of species and genetic diversity by successfully negotiating the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. Negotiations were concluded in May 1992 and the Convention was opened for signature by world leaders at the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 1992.

The Canadian delegation actively participated in these negotiations, and the Prime Minister signed the Convention at UNCED. On December 4, 1992, with the support of the provinces and territories, Canada became the first industrialized country to ratify the Convention, which entered into force on December 29, 1993.

Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Our Common Future, 1987

The Convention builds on and echoes the philosophy of such predecessors as Caring for the Earth, A Strategy for Sustainable Living, published in 1991, (the Brundtland Report), published in 1987, and the World Conservation Strategy, published in 1980. All are based on the principle that development must be both ecologically and economically sustainable. That is, our efforts to meet human needs must be carried out within the finite resources of the planet.

The objectives of the Convention are:

  • the conservation of biodiversity;
  • the sustainable use of biological resources; and
  • the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources.

The Biodiversity Convention is about global sustainable development, which requires the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use of biological resources. It conveys an understanding of the relationship between human activity and the natural world and the need to sustain living organisms, genetic diversity and the integrity of ecosystems. It will influence, perhaps profoundly, the future of life on Earth. Implementation of the Convention will require a significant shift in the way we use and manage living things. A cooperative, cross-sectoral approach, based on partnerships, must be adopted within and among the nations of the world.

Conservation: the maintenance or sustainable use of the Earth's resources in order to maintain ecosystem, species and genetic diversity and the evolutionary and other processes that shape them.

Canada's Response to the Biodiversity Convention

The Biodiversity Convention provides opportunities for Canada to re-examine its relationship with nature, create new global partnerships, harmonize its national activities and develop new economic opportunities. As a party to the Convention, we are bound by its terms, including the obligation to develop a national biodiversity strategy.

In response to this obligation, a Federal-Provincial-Territorial Biodiversity Working Group was established with a mandate from parks, environment, wildlife and forestry ministers to develop a Canadian Biodiversity Strategy within two years. A national Biodiversity Advisory Group, made up of representatives from industry, the scientific community, conservation groups, academia and indigenous organizations, was established to provide advice to the Working Group. Ten expert focus groups were convened to provide additional advice on specific Convention articles.

The development of the Strategy began with an assessment of how well Canada was meeting the objectives of the Convention. Over the last decade, federal, provincial and territorial governments have developed and implemented a wide range of laws, policies and programs that support these objectives. The assessment concluded that Federal, provincial and territorial governments, in cooperation with members of the public and stakeholders, will pursue the strategic directions set out in the Strategy according to their policies, plans, priorities and fiscal capabilities. Canada has a strong foundation for responding to commitments under the Convention and a good basis for developing and implementing a national biodiversity strategy. It also revealed that, while it is necessary to do new things, it is sometimes more efficient to enhance or modify current efforts. Such changes require a greater harmonization of efforts among governments and non-government agencies, as well as more integrated resource management approaches that integrate biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of biological resources with economic, social and cultural objectives.

The Canadian Biodiversity Strategy has been developed as a guide to implementing the Biodiversity Convention in Canada and addressing the difficult issues posed by the loss of biodiversity. It recognizes existing constitutional and legislative responsibilities in Canada, while promoting intergovernmental cooperation to advance ecological management. Although all of the directions contained in the Strategy are important from a national perspective, the relevance of certain elements varies across jurisdictions. Also, many initiatives currently underway support the obligations of the Convention.

Canada's Response to the Convention on Biological Diversity:

  • June 1992 - Canada signs the Convention at the Earth Summit
  • December 1992 - Canada ratifies the Convention
  • December 1993 - Convention enters into force
  • June 1994 - Draft Canadian Biodiversity Strategy released for consultation
  • November 1994 - First Conference of the Parties
  • 1995 - Public Release of the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy Implementation Phase

Federal, provincial and territorial governments, in cooperation with members of the public and stakeholders, will pursue the strategic directions set out in the Strategy according to their policies, plans, priorities and fiscal capabilities.

Implementation mechanisms will vary among jurisdictions. In many instances, the directions outlined in the Strategy will be implemented through existing policies, strategies and plans. In other cases, new mechanisms may need to be established. Coordination will be required to promote the effective implementation of national and international elements of the Strategy. The extent, manner and timing of implementation will depend upon an evolving understanding of how ecosystems function and the effects of human activity on these ecosystems.

The Strategy may also serve as a guide for local and indigenous communities, urban and regional governments, business and industry, conservation groups, educational and scientific institutions and interested individuals.

The conservation of biodiversity and sustainable use of biological resources must be pursued in tandem with social and economic goals. In order to safeguard our natural legacy, decisions must consider the needs of both current and future generations.