Who regulates invasive species?

Federal, provincial, and municipal governments all have a role to play in regulating invasive species spread and management. Find legislation and policies in Ontario here.

Under the 1867 Constitution Act, Section 91, the federal government is responsible for matters relating to:

  • Criminal Law
  • Sea Coast and Inland Fisheries
  • Wildlife
  • Navigation and Shipping
  • Interprovincial and International Undertakings
  • Trade and Commerce
  • Environmental Liability

Under the 1867 Constitution Act, Section 92, the provincial government is responsible for matters relating to:

  • Property and Civil Rights
  • Local and Private Provincial Matters
  • Local Work and Undertakings

Click on the tabs below to learn more about federal legislation and provincial legislation in Ontario regarding invasive species. Regulations in other provinces and territories coming soon.

Federal legislation focusing on invasive species

The Canada Shipping Act (2001) allows Canada’s government to regulate the control and management of ballast water in marine (ocean) environments. Regulating ballast water can help prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species.

Read more about the Canada Shipping Act here.

The Fisheries Act (1985) allows Canada’s government to establish a list of aquatic invasive species and create regulations with respect to the management and control of these species. This includes regulations regarding prevention, possession, release, handling, treatment, and eradication of aquatic invasive species. 

Read more about the Fisheries Act here

The Great Lakes Fisheries Convention Act (1985) was written to form a convention (agreement between countries) between Canada and the United States on fisheries in the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes Fishery Commission, established under this act, is in charge of minimizing and/or eradicating sea lamprey populations in the Great Lakes and its tributaries.

Read more about the Great Lakes Fisheries Convention Act here.

While the Health of Animals Act (1990) does not directly reference invasive species, it does cover importation, possession, movement, and export of wildlife, pathogens, and other biological agents. This Act helps prevent the introduction of invasive species by giving Canada’s government the right to regulate the movement of wildlife.

Read more about the Health of Animals Act here.

The Plant Protection Act (1990) was written to protect Canada’s forestry and agriculture sectors by regulating the import, movement, and export of pests. Invasive species are not directly mentioned in this Act, but can be covered by the Act’s definition of pest as “any thing that is injurious or potentially injurious, whether directly or indirectly, to plants or to products or by-products of plants”.

Read more about the Plant Protection Act here.

Federal legislation related to invasive species

Under the Canada National Parks Act (2000), maintaining or restoring “ecological integrity” should be the first priority of the Minister when planning management for Canada’s national parks. The definition of “ecological integrity” in this Act includes “the composition and abundance of native species and biological communities, rates of change and supporting processes”. In other words, this Act is concerned with the number and diversity of native species in an ecosystem, how quickly the ecosystem changes over time, and the processes that keep an ecosystem healthy. Invasive species threaten each of these ecosystem components and would therefore be relevant in management and restoration plans for Canada’s national parks.

Read more about the Canada National Parks Act here.

The purpose of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (1999) is to “contribute to sustainable development through pollution prevention” for the well-being of Canadians. The Act primarily covers the import and export of substances that could harm the environment. Under Section 114, the Canadian government is able to regulate the movement of exotic living organisms, which would include non-native and invasive species. 

Read more about the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act here.

The Environmental Violations Administrative Monetary Penalties Act (2009) was created to establish a monetary penalty system for the enforcement of federal Environmental Acts – several of which contribute to the regulation of invasive species. 

Read more about the Environmental Violations Administrative Monetary Penalties Act here

The Federal Sustainable Development Act (2008) was written to provide a framework for sustainable development in Canada. Within this Act, sustainable development is based on “an efficient use of natural, social and economic resources” and can be achieved in part through the protection of ecosystems, cultural heritage, and human health – all of which are threatened by invasive species.

Read more about the Federal Sustainable Development Act here.

The Freshwater Fish Marketing Act (1985) was written to establish a Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation and regulate movement and export of freshwater fish. This Act includes a list (schedule) of freshwater fish species that are fished in Canada and marketed/exported. This Act does not directly reference invasive species, but the marketing and trade of freshwater fish species could be significantly impacted by the introduction/presence of aquatic invasive species.

Read more about the Freshwater Fish Marketing Act here.

The Migratory Birds Convention Act (1994) was written to establish a convention (agreement between countries) between Canada and the United States for the protection of migratory birds. Under this Act, it is against the law to deposit any substance in areas (including waters) frequented by migratory birds. Invasive species are not directly mentioned in this Act but would be considered a biological agent (substance) that could threaten migratory birds.

Read more about the Migratory Birds Convention Act here.

The Pest Control Products Act (2002) regulates the use of pest control products. Under this Act, “pest” is defined as “an animal, a plant or other organism that is injurious, noxious or troublesome, whether directly or indirectly”. Therefore, any control product used to manage invasive species would be regulated under this Act for the purpose of protecting human health, biodiversity, the environment, and Canadian natural resources.

Read more about the Pest Control Products Act here.

The Seeds Act (1985) regulates the import and export of seeds in Canada. Under this Act, the Canadian Government has the right to regulate the “sale, importation or exportation of any seed that presents a risk of harm to human, animal or plant health or the environment”. This Act also covers packaging, licensing, registration, disease control, and more for seeds in Canada. While invasive species are not mentioned directly, seed regulation helps protect Canada from potentially invasive plants and pathogens.

Read more about the Seeds Act here.

The Species at Risk Act (SARA; 2002) protects wildlife species at risk in Canada and guides the production of recovery strategies. This Act recognizes native wildlife and ecosystems as inherently valuable for “aesthetic, cultural, spiritual, recreational, educational, historical, economic, medical, ecological and scientific reasons”. SARA regulates the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council, which in turn provides direction for the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), and also governs the species at risk public registry.

This Act does not mention invasive species directly but allows the Canadian Government to regulate the protection of wildlife species at risk and critical habitat – both of which can be threatened by invasive species.

Read more about the Species at Risk Act here.

The Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act (1992) protects public safety (including human health and the environment) by regulating the movement of dangerous goods. Under this Act, invasive species can be considered a “dangerous good” under Class 9: “Miscellaneous products, substances or organisms considered by the Governor in Council to be dangerous to life, health, property or the environment when handled”.

Read more about the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act here.

The Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (1992) was written to protect Canadian plants and animals primarily by implementing the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international agreement that protects plants and animals from over-exploitation for international trade. This Act also allows the Canadian Government to regulate the import, movement, and export of plants, animals, and parts/derivatives of plants and animals.

Read more about the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act here.

Learn more about CITES-listed species here.

Ontario legislation focusing on invasive species

The Forestry Act (1990) regulates forest management, control, and sale in Ontario. This Act includes invasive species (referred to as an “infestation”) in Section 7, whereby the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry is able to prevent, manage, or eradicate forest infestations as they see fit.

Read more about Ontario’s Forestry Act here.

The Great Lakes Protection Act (2015) was written to protect and restore the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin. This Act recognizes the importance of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin for human health, biodiversity, and Indigenous communities, and regulates measures to monitor, manage, and restore this area. Included in these measures is the importance of monitoring and reporting invasive species.

Read more about the Ontario Great Lakes Protection Act here.

The Invasive Species Act (2015) explicitly regulates the prevention and management of invasive species in Ontario. Sixteen species are prohibited under this Act, meaning it is illegal to import, possess, transport, or release these species anywhere in Ontario. Four additional species are restricted, meaning it is illegal to bring them into provincial parks or conservation reserves and illegal to release them anywhere in Ontario.

Under the Invasive Species Act, the Ontario Government has the right to regulate prevention, early detection and rapid response, control, eradication, monitoring and reporting, education and research, risk assessment, and prevention and response plans regarding invasive species. 

Species currently prohibited under the Ontario Invasive Species Act are: Asian carps (bighead, black, grass, and silver), snakeheads, stone moroko, wels catfish, zander, common yabby, golden mussel, killer shrimp, Brazilian elodea, European water chestnut, hydrilla, water soldier, and parrot feather.

Species currently restricted under the Ontario Invasive Species Act are: black dog-strangling vine, dog-strangling vine, Japanese knotweed, and invasive phragmites.

Read more about the Ontario Invasive Species Act here.

The Pesticides Act (1990) regulates the use of pesticides in Ontario for the safety and well-being of the community and the environment. Under this act, a pest is defined as “any injurious, noxious or troublesome plant or animal life”, which would include invasive species. Pesticides are sometimes used as a control measure for invasive species, a process that would be regulated under this Act.

Read more about the Ontario Pesticides Act here

The Weed Control Act (1990) regulates the designation and management of noxious (harmful, destructive) weeds in Ontario. There are currently 25 species listed as noxious weeds in Ontario, including invasive species such as dog-strangling vine, European buckthorn, giant hogweed, and wild parsnip.

Read more about the Ontario Weed Control Act here.

Ontario legislation related to invasive species

The Animal Health Act (2009) was established to protect animal health and prevent/manage any animal-related hazards that may threaten animal or human health in Ontario. Invasive species are not mentioned directly in this Act but could be regulated under the definition of “hazard” which includes any disease or biological agent that threatens animal health.

Read more about the Ontario Animal Health Act here.

The Conservation Authorities Act (1990) establishes conservation authorities and regulates their activities for the management of natural resources in Ontario. Under this Act, conservation authorities have control over conserving, managing, and restoring lands in their region and can regulate activities that may negatively impact the environment. Invasive species are not mentioned directly in this Act but play a role in the management of conservation areas and can financially impact conservation authorities.

Read more about the Ontario Conservation Authorities Act here

Learn more about economic impacts to Ontario municipalities and conservation authorities here.

The Crown Forest Sustainability Act (1994) was written to regulate the sustainable management of Crown (provincial, non-private) forests in Ontario. A provincial Forest Management Planning Manual provides direction for forest management with goals of preserving biodiversity and historic ecosystem processes and minimizing negative impacts to ecosystems, resources, and recreation. Invasive species are not directly mentioned but could be regulated under the aforementioned goals of this Act. Furthermore, “pest control” is included as an acceptable recipient of the Forestry Futures Trust, a funding source regulated under the Crown Forest Sustainability Act. 

Read more about the Ontario Crown Forest Sustainability Act here

Read more about sustainable forest management in Ontario here.

The purpose of the Endangered Species Act (2007) is to protect and recover species at risk and their habitats in Ontario. Protecting native species of concern in Ontario also protects biodiversity and its “ecological, social, economic, cultural and intrinsic value”. Invasive species are not mentioned directly in this Act but are a significant threat to species at risk and critical habitat.

Read more about the Endangered Species Act here.

The Environmental Assessment Act (1990) was written to regulate protection, conservation, and management of Ontario’s environment. This Act does not directly mention invasive species but relates to forestry management.

Read more about the Ontario Environmental Assessment Act here.

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (1997) regulates hunting, trapping, fishing, and other related activities in Ontario. It also covers ownership, sale, purchase, and transport of wildlife and fish. This Act does not directly mention invasive species, but does have regulations regarding release of wildlife, aquaculture, and wildlife disease – all of which have significant ties with invasive species.

Read more about the Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act here.

The Kawartha Lakes Signature Site Park Act (2003) regulates the protection and management of the Kawartha Lakes Signature Site Park in Ontario. The purpose of this Act includes protecting native species and natural ecosystem processes, both of which can be threatened by invasive species.

Read more about the Ontario Kawartha Lakes Signature Site Park Act here.

The Lake Simcoe Protection Act (2008) was written to protect and restore the Lake Simcoe watershed in Ontario. Invasive species are directly cited as a threat to the ecological health of Lake Simcoe and a key objective of the Act is to prevent and manage invasive species in the Lake Simcoe watershed.

Read more about the Ontario Lake Simcoe Protection Act here.

The Municipal Act (2001) regulates municipalities and their jurisdictional power in Ontario. Many of the assets regulated municipally under this act (including public parks, roads and sidewalks, public buildings, and more) are affected by invasive species. Because of this, municipalities face a significant economic impact with regards to managing invasive species.

Read more about the Ontario Municipal Act here

Learn more about economic impacts to Ontario municipalities and conservation authorities here.

The Plant Diseases Act (1990) defines “plant disease” as “any disease or injury of a plant that is caused by an insect, virus, fungus, bacterium or other organism”. Invasive species are not directly mentioned but would be included under this definition (particularly species such as the invasive pathogen that causes oak wilt). This Act allows the Ontario government to identify plant diseases and regulate their movement and management.

Read more about the Ontario Plant Diseases Act here.

The Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act (2006) was written to protect ecosystems and biodiversity within Ontario provincial parks and conservation reserves. This Act does not directly reference invasive species but does aim to preserve ecological integrity. Under this Act, ecological integrity is a condition where an ecosystem and its processes remain characteristic to the area. Invasive species threaten ecological integrity, and so would be included under the regulations in he Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act.

Read more about the Ontario Provincial Parks and Conservation Reserves Act here.