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Nova Scotia Supreme Court rules in favour of Naturalists/East Coast Environmental Law versus NS Lands & Forestry

Today’s decision confirms that Nova Scotia’s ESA is the law, and not a set of vague or voluntary guidelines. The Minister is required to fulfill the law’s mandatory requirements to protect some of the province’s most vulnerable species. Sarah McDonald, Ecojustice lawyer

Ram’s Head orchid

From the Background to Supreme Court Decision (May 29, 2020)

The Minister of Lands and Forestry (the Minister) is responsible for implementing the ESA [Endangered Species Act]. The Applicants say the Minister has failed to implement the ESA as it pertains to six representative species: Mainland Moose, Ram’s-head Lady Slipper, Canada Warbler, Black Ash, Wood Turtle, and Eastern Wood Pewee. Each of these species is native to Nova Scotia and is listed as endangered, threatened, or vulnerable under the ESA. The Applicants [Robert Bancroft, Federation of Nova Scotia Naturalists, Blomidon Naturalists Society and The Halifax Field Naturalists with East Coast Environmental Law Association as Intervenor] seek a declaration that the Minister’s failure to implement the ESA, specifically section 15, is unlawful and unreasonable; an order of mandamus; and a supervisory order by which the court would retain jurisdiction and require the Minister to produce status reports on the implementation of section 15.

The Conclusion to Supreme Court Decision (May 29, 2020)

In accordance with the foregoing reasons, the application for judicial review is allowed in part. The Minister’s conduct in failing to observe non-discretionary, statutory duties imposed by section 15 of the ESA was unreasonable. The Respondents did not provide evidence that would explain the repeated failures to uphold the clear language of the statute, whether due to lack of resources or other reasons. The Minister’s conduct is therefore unreasonable, as described above. The Applicants are entitled to declarations to that effect, and an order of mandamus as set out above.

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Supreme Court Decision (May 29, 2020)

Nova Scotia Court Confirms Province Failed to Protect Endangered Species
Post on ecelaw.ca, May 29, 2020

HFN co-litigant in legal action for Nova Scotia’s species at risk
Post on halifaxfieldnaturalists.ca on Jan 26, 2019