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Legislation and Policy

Wetlands in Parliament

Parliament Hil. Photo: Matt YoungThere is no specific wetlands legislation in Ontario or Canada. Wetlands receive indirect protection through Ontario's Planning and Development Act, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, Municipal Act, Endangered Species Act, Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act, Conservation Land Act, Conservation Authorities Act, Environmental Assessment Act, and Ontario Water Resources Act. Wetlands are also specifically recognized in the natural heritage protection measures of Ontario's Planning and Development Act. However, other legislation, such as the provincial Tile Drainage Act, still work against wetland conservation by permitting wetland drainage for agricultural purposes. In most cases, the installation of municipal drains significantly alters the local water cycle, resulting in dramatic changes to wetland area and function.

At the federal level, the Canada Wildlife Act, Fisheries Act, Migratory Birds Convention Act, Species at Risk Act, and Canadian Environmental Assessment Act provide some protection to wetlands through species and habitat conservation measures.

Most often, wetlands are protected through policies and agreements. While certainly valuable, these vehicles do not have the same clout as legislation. A thorough review of Canadian wetland policy and legislation as of 1999 is provided in the publicationWetlands and government: policy and legislation for wetland conservation in Canada (PDF, 19.8 MB). This publication is available in printable PDF format only.