top of page

Shake Up The Establishment’s Feedback on the Federal Offsetting Policy for Biodiversity

Disclaimer: Hello, my name is Anna Huschka (she/her) and I am the researcher behind this work. I am writing from a position of privilege as a white settler on the land of the Williams Treaty First Nations. I never intend to speak on behalf of any communities mentioned within this work, but rather to use my privilege to call out the inadequacies of government action to address climate change. I acknowledge the privilege I have to be able to provide feedback on government policy, as there have and continue to be, many policies that are harmful to both people and the planet that have been implemented into law without the consideration of the people they affect. Through the sharing of the feedback I provided, I hope to not only encourage the government to consider a more significant involvement of Indigenous communities as the leaders they should be when it comes to environmental policy, but to also showcase other methodology for the general public, especially youth, to induce the development and adaptation of policies that effectively address issues they care about.


Overall Summary:

The Offsetting Policy for Biodiversity is presented as the government's efforts to protect Canadian biodiversity in the face of development, the minimized involvement of Indigenous peoples and knowledge, and the overall lack of transparency regarding the accountability and implementation aspects of this policy, leaves us as an organization concerned.


What You Need to Know:

  • The Offsetting Policy for Biodiversity was created to legislate the development and implementation of projects to counteract and minimize negative environmental impacts of development projects

  • The Offsetting Policy for Biodiversity is set to cover any project in which "Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) has a role (regulatory or expert) within its mandate and it has been determined that offsetting is required"

    • What this actually means in terms of the scope of the policy is not clarified within the policy, one of SUTE's concerns that is discussed within our feedback

  • Stakeholders were asked to comment on how the offsetting policy will impact their work and any questions and concerns regarding the policy’s current state

  • Feedback was emailed directly to the Canada Wildlife Service of Environment Canada

  • While the window for providing feedback on this specific policy has now closed, you can always email your MP with your concerns about any work being done by the federal government

  • SUTE will provide its followers with any updates regarding the state of this policy and the feedback we provided as it arises

Our Feedback:

Hello Representatives from Environment and Climate Change Canada,


My name is Anna Huschka, and I am a Political Content Researcher and Writer with Shake Up The Establishment. Shake Up The Establishment is a non-partisan, youth-led, registered organization that aims to make credible, evidence-informed information readily available to the Canadian population to promote informed voting, advocacy practices, and political accountability surrounding human and social justice issues that are exacerbated by the climate crisis. As an organization, we value policy and action that upholds the least amount of disturbance possible for an ecosystem and the increased maintenance and protection of species and spaces at risk. The upkeep and protection of natural spaces is remarkably important to the wellbeing of not only the planet, but the people on it as well. Interactions with nature are not always accessible, and the allowance of more development projects further inhibits the ability of people to adequately access and reap the mental and physical health benefits associated with existing within natural spaces.


Shake Up The Establishment has four key comments/concerns we would like to see addressed, which are further expanded upon throughout this email:

  1. How is the department going to ensure that this policy and any in-progress offsetting efforts do not get lost/destroyed as a power play by tumultuous changes in leadership or governing party?

  2. Indigenous communities and the general public deserve to see in-depth commitment from their government to include Indigenous rights and knowledge within the work and wording of this policy.

  3. What kind of system/qualifications will be used in the determination of the application and intensity of this policy, and will those also get public commentary on their development, as well as accountability of the government in their utilization, to allow people to ensure their government is adequately protecting Canadian biodiversity?

  4. What are the plans for the implementation of the policy and the accountability of the government and development figures responsible for carrying out offsetting projects, and when will the general public gain access and opportunities to comment on them?


As an organization with a prioritization of non-partisanship when it comes to our functioning and resource development, we are concerned about the overall longevity of this legislation. As mentioned throughout the policy, many of the resulting offsetting efforts will need to be implemented as long-term or sometimes permanent programs. In today’s political environment, every issue on the table is being polarized, pushing Canadians and politicians to decide which side of the extreme they lie on, rather than actually working towards the overall betterment of our society. With this political instability in play, how is the department going to ensure that this policy and any in-progress offsetting efforts do not get lost/destroyed as a power play by tumultuous changes in leadership or governing party?


There is a lot left to be desired in terms of the government’s commitment to Indigenous involvement in the development of offsets. Some of the wording choices within this policy create loopholes for the government to look progressive while doing the bare minimum. The utilization of only three sentences to acknowledge Indigenous rights within the policy does not do justice to the complexity of how Indigenous communities have and continue to be violated by governments and developers, as well as the individualism of Indigenous communities, whom will each have their own unique rights, beliefs, and concerns when it comes to development projects and the creation and implementation of offset efforts on their land. In the Indigenous rights section of the policy, the statement “Environment and Climate Change Canada is committed to ensuring that Indigenous rights, values and perspectives are considered and respected.”. While the government requirement is simply to consult, there should be a specific emphasis on actually incorporating the knowledge, concerns, and beliefs of Indigenous peoples into the development of offsets, not just simply 'considered' and cast aside. In policy statement one, the government commits that “offsets developed to address the environmental changes that affect the current and/or traditional use of lands and resources by Indigenous peoples or that occur on reserve land will be designed through engagement with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and communities”. All the land within what is currently Canada is Indigenous land and these communities deserve to be intimately engaged with all offsetting projects stemming from this policy, not just the ones the government deems as appropriate, any other approach continues the colonial undermining of the rights of Indigenous communities. As well, if this policy truly intends to best protect biodiversity, it would be in the government’s best interest to include Indigenous communities in the creation and running of all offsetting projects. A 2019 study by Schuster, Germain, Bennet, Reo, and Arcese found that in what is currently Canada, lands managed by Indigenous peoples homed higher levels of vertebrate and amphibian diversity than government-managed lands, further showcasing the importance of meaningful participation of Indigenous communities in the development and implementation of any offsetting projects resulting from this policy. Indigenous communities and the general public deserve to see in-depth commitment from their government to include Indigenous rights and knowledge within the work and wording of this policy.


Another area of concern is the overall application of the policy. The current wording of what projects will be held accountable under this legislation is incredibly vague, and it would be valuable to include any insight into what the decision-making process is like for determining the activation of this policy, and to what degree, for development projects. While we understand the constitutional restrictions of the department to act on development projects only under their jurisdiction, this still leaves a lot of projects that will potentially not have any offset regulations enforced, leaving a lot of biodiversity across the country still unprotected, bringing the overall effectiveness of the policy into question. There are also multiple instances in which the application and intended goal of offsetting appears to be conditional due to the wording used in the policy, and we are concerned about the lack of clarity and accountability associated with these processes. In the “Application” section it is stated that this policy will apply in situations in which ECCC has “determined that offsetting is required” and in “Policy Statement 4” it is stated that “in some situations, biodiversity offsets must achieve net gains in biodiversity”. What kind of system/qualifications will be used in the determination of these circumstances, and will those also get public commentary on their development, as well as accountability of the government in their utilization, to allow people to ensure their government is adequately protecting Canadian biodiversity?


Overall, Shake Up The Establishment has concerns about the accountability of the government and developers when it comes to the eventual implementation of this policy, as information is not currently disclosed for the reception of public input. An effectively written policy is legitimately nothing without the implementation and accountability measures dictating its usage. While this policy promises to hold developers legally and financially responsible for the creation and implementation of offset projects associated with their projects, the document gives no insight into what the process for the implementation of this policy will actually look like, leaving a massive question mark for interest groups currently being consulted about whether the policy is actually satisfactory or not. Another concern about the lack of publicizing the compliance and enforcement segment of this policy is that there is no guarantee that the right groups/communities/the best environmental interests will actually be represented at the decision-making table. Restricting the responsibility of ensuring adequate compliance and enforcement of this policy to government and developer representatives leaves the door open for potential conflicts of interest, such as those currently being seen at the provincial and municipal level of Ontario It is vital for the federal government to not follow in these footsteps. The current state of this policy, with the lack of transparency regarding any implementation and accountability aspects of its utilization leaves Canadian ecosystems, biodiversity, and species at risk of devastating damages as a result of development projects. It is imperative that the government not only shares, but openly discusses and works upon implementation and accountability methodology with the general public and impacted stakeholders. What are the plans for the implementation of the policy and the accountability of the government and development figures responsible for carrying out offsetting projects, and when will the general public gain access and opportunities to comment on them?


We as an organization see immense value in the preservation and protection of natural spaces and naturally occurring biodiversity across the country. While we know that development is inevitable, we wish to see it done ethically, in a way that puts the planet and people above profit. We appreciate the government’s consideration of the feedback coming from Shake Up The Establishment and other diverse voices, and we hope to see the necessary changes made to this policy in order to better protect what is currently Canada’s natural biodiversity. If there are any questions about our feedback, we can be contacted at anna@shakeuptheestab.org.


Thank you,

Anna Huschka , on behalf of Shake Up the Establishment

66 views0 comments

Bình luận


bottom of page