Reference Documents

Environment Canada’s protected areas are established under federal legal authority, through the Canada Wildlife Act for the designation of National Wildlife Areas, and through the Migratory Birds Convention Act for the designation of Migratory Bird Sanctuaries. Although other federal laws apply to Environment Canada’s protected areas, the establishment and management of National Wildlife Areas and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries are primarily governed by these acts and their associated regulations: the Wildlife Area Regulations and Migratory Bird Sanctuary Regulations

The establishment and expansion of Environment Canada’s network of protected areas is an essential part of the habitat conservation program administered by the Canadian Wildlife Service. The habitat conservation program sets specific objectives and targets for wildlife habitat conservation, to achieve its strategy (one of three) of identifying, designating and managing protected areas1 . To support the fulfillment of these objectives, a mix of policies, guidelines and programs have been developed and implemented over the years, including the Wildlife Policy for Canada.

For more information on the laws, policies and other guiding documents for the establishment and management of National Wildlife Areas and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, consult the sections on Acts and Regulations and Policies and Guidelines.

Act, Regulation or Policy?

An act is a statute that is passed by Parliament. A regulation is “delegated or subordinate legislation” that will support the implementation of the statute by further detailing the legal authority and restrictions (e.g., permitting and penalties). A policy is a directive based on the interpretation of law. Although policy does not have force of law, it does guide decision making, especially for occurrences not prescribed in an act or regulation. To learn more about the legislative process in Canada, visit the Department of Justice's Frequently Asked Questions web page.


1 The departmental Reports on Plans and Priorities provide further information on the governance of the Environment Canada's protected areas program.