Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canada's polar policies to forefront

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CANADA is being forced to explain its polar bear policies to an international environmental watchdog.

The Commission on Environmental Co-operation, which is part of the North American Free Trade Agreement, has accepted a petition from a U.S.-based group that says Canada isn't following its own laws on protecting the bears.

In accepting the petition, the commission has found that the Center for Biological Diversity has registered a legitimate concern under the terms of the treaty.

"The commission found that we had a sufficient allegation and provided sufficient documentation of the violation that we can move forward in this process," Sarah Uhlemann, a lawyer with the center, said Friday.

The petition, filed in November 2011, alleges Canadian officials ignored the most recent science on climate change and the loss of Arctic sea ice when they ruled last year against changing the status of the bear from "special concern" to "threatened," which would rule out hunting.

It also says that the Tory government had already broken its own laws by being more than three years late in filing a mandatory management plan for the Arctic predators. The petition concludes by suggesting hunting quotas for the bears set by Inuit co-management boards are unsustainable for some populations.

Uhlemann said Canada's most recent scientific assessment of bear populations minimized the impact of ice loss. The bears use sea ice as a hunting platform for seals, their primary food.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 1, 2012 A22

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