Reinforcing Canada’s Frontline of Defense Against Wildlife Disease

The COVID-19 crisis is a devastating example of the risks we take as a society when we fail to actively prevent the emergence and spread of wildlife disease.

Internationally, Canada supported the G7 Joint Statement in February 2021 and the Rome Declaration of May 2021 calling for strengthening and enhanced implementation of the “One Health” approach to the prevention and control of diseases that can transfer between animals and humans and the prevention of antibiotic resistance. However domestically, Canada is ill-prepared to effectively deal with existing and emerging wildlife diseases and threats to wildlife and human health. Similarly, Canadian academics and public health experts are global leaders in the development of an eco-social approach to public health that recognizes the ecological determinants of human health; however, Canada has yet to take any steps to implement such an approach.

The current approach to addressing wildlife health issues in Canada is under-resourced and reactive. Consequently, problems are rarely addressed in their early stages when prevention and response options are greatest. Canada’s ongoing control efforts and research to address existing wildlife health threats is not sufficient to improve outcomes. Demands for wildlife health services and expertise are growing beyond current capacity because of the need for assurances for trading partners, the need to ensure a safe and sustainable traditional food source for Indigenous Peoples and other Canadians who rely on wildlife for sustenance and livelihoods, and the increase in emerging diseases that threaten public health, wildlife conservation, and agriculture with direct implications the economy. Currently, Canada is not equipped to keep up with these emerging wildlife heath threats.

The Green Budget Coalition recommends that the federal government fund the Pan-Canadian Approach to Wildlife Health.103 Implementation of the Pan-Canadian Approach would result in strong, shared leadership to protect and promote wildlife health, prevent, and control wildlife disease, and ensure food safety for Canadians that rely on wildlife for part of their diet.

Implementation of a national wildlife health program would allow Canada to achieve the following objectives:

  • Protect and conserve native fauna from harm due to emerging pathogens and sustain ecological and economic services provided by wildlife;
  • Provide assurances to Canadians that depend upon healthy wildlife for sustenance and livelihood;
  • Enable Canada to meet its national and international obligations for disease surveillance in relation to public health, agriculture and trade, and the One Health approach; and,
  • Reduce surprises from emerging disease threats, particularly those anticipated with climate change, globalization, and erosion of ecological integrity.

Recommended Investment:

$100 million over five years [ECCC, PHAC, CFIA, in collaboration with ISC]

  • $45 million for the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative, to build professional capacity within Canada, coordinate monitoring and surveillance, and provide access to diagnostic, data management and synthesis of information that is accessible across the country [ECCC];
  • $20 million for application-based program funding that will be open to all partners on an annual basis. This would include a Northern Wildlife Health Program [ECCC, PHAC];
  • $25 million to build government capacity to implement wildlife health programs [ECCC, CFIA]; and,
  • $10 million for governance, targeted Indigenous hunter communication tools, professional exchange programs, research fellowships, and State of Wildlife Health reports [ECCC].

Contact

David Browne – davidb@cwf-fcf.org