COSEWIC was established in 1977 to provide Canadians with a single, scientifically sound classification of wildlife species at risk of extinction. COSEWIC began its assessments in 1978 and has met each year since then to assess wildlife species. COSEWIC uses a process based on science, Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge and community knowledge to assess the risk of extinction for wildlife species. Its process is thorough, independent and transparent.
In 2003, the Species at Risk Act (SARA) was proclaimed. The purpose of SARA is to protect wildlife species at risk in Canada. Within the Act, COSEWIC was established as an independent body of experts responsible for identifying and assessing wildlife species considered to be at risk. This is the first step towards protecting wildlife species at risk. Subsequent steps include COSEWIC reporting its results to the Canadian government and the public, and the Minister of the Environment's official response to the assessment results. Wildlife species that have been designated by COSEWIC may then qualify for legal protection and recovery under SARA.
It is up to government to legally protect wildlife species designated by COSEWIC. COSEWIC's assessments do not take into account political, social or economic factors. The potential impacts of legal listing are for Government to analyse, and the Act applies only to wildlife species on the SARA legal list.
For more information on how COSEWIC assesses wildlife species, visit the Wildlife Species Assessment section of the COSEWIC website.
For more information on the Species at Risk Act, visit the SARA Public Registry website.
See our FAQs for some frequently asked questions about COSEWIC and SARA.