Poll: Canadians Want More Conservation

November 22, 2017


RELEASE: Canadians Want to Protect at Least 17% of Canada by 2020

Ottawa: November 22, 2017 As Canada develops its plan to meet the conservation target of protecting at least 17% of lands by 2020, the results of a recent survey show that the vast majority of Canadians supports this goal and wants the country to become a leader in creating parks and protected areas.

The survey, conducted by Earnscliffe Strategy Group for the Schad Foundation and the Boreal Songbird Initiative, found:

  • Resounding Support for Expanding Protected Areas: 87% of Canadians agree Canada should expand protected lands to at least 17 per cent by 2020. Approval was strong among supporters of all three leading national political parties: 93% of Liberals; 92% of NDP; and 80% of CPC.
  • Broad Backing for Federal Investment to Meet this Goal: 79% of Canadians favour increased federal funds to create new parks and protected areas.
  • Strong Majority Supports Indigenous-Led Conservation: 74% of Canadians support Indigenous communities creating and managing Indigenous protected and conserved areas.

Survey respondents expressed a desire for Canada to take a stronger leadership role on conservation. Sixty-two per cent think it is unacceptable that Canada has a lower percentage of conserved land than any of the other G7 nations. Canada has protected about 10% of its lands so far.

“Canada can take bold steps on conservation knowing it has the support of the Canadian public,” said Peter Kendall, the executive director of the Schad Foundation. “Canadians want the government to protect at least 17% of lands, and to do it in partnership with Indigenous communities. Now is the time for Canada to become a global leader on conservation.”

Allan Gregg, the principal at Earnscliffe who designed the survey, said “Support for protecting more land is widespread among Canadians because they understand it will deliver many benefits—from sustaining wildlife to reducing carbon emissions, advancing reconciliation, creating jobs in rural Canada, and preserving parks for future generations. Everybody wins.”

Some of Canada’s most iconic protected areas—such as Gwaii Hanaas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site and the Torngat Mountains National Park—are already being managed in partnership with Indigenous nations, and more communities are ready to establish Indigenous protected and conserved areas. The survey found a solid majority of Canadians (74%) supports Indigenous communities’ creation and management of Indigenous protected and conserved areas. Support is widespread across all regions and political parties.

“Canada is uniquely positioned to protect the natural systems we all depend upon,” said Cathy Wilkinson, the Ottawa-based president of the Boreal Songbird Initiative. “Canada’s Boreal Forest is the largest intact forest left on the planet, and it is home to 25 per cent of the world’s wetlands. These are globally significant landscapes. The survey shows that many people view protecting these wilderness areas as a core Canadian value.”

When it comes to Canada’s vast northern frontier in the Boreal Forest, most Canadians favour a balance between conservation and development, according to the survey. And respondents believe expanding conservation can generate economic benefits:  

  • 85% of Canadians agree that new protected areas will provide certainty for industry;
  • 82% agree that new protected areas will create jobs in rural Canada and drawing investment and tourism.

The survey was conducted to assess public support as the government prepares a pathway to its conservation targets. Canada has committed to protecting at least 17 per cent of lands by 2020 as part of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, an international effort designed to stem the loss of animals, plants and the degradation of lands that sustain them.

In June 2017, Parks Canada and Alberta Environment and Parks launched a planning process for achieving the target. A National Advisory Panel and Indigenous Circle of Experts are expected to submit to government their recommendations for the process by the end of 2017.

These results are based on a national survey of 2,001 Canadians (18+). The survey was conducted online from November 6-10, 2017. 

View Full Polling Results >

Media Contacts:

Sean Durkan: sean.sda.inc@rogers.com (613 851 2151)

Emily Cousins: ecousins@intlboreal.org (917-232-9520)


The Schad Foundation is a private family foundation founded by Robert and Elizabeth Schad. It focuses on youth environmental education and on projects that have a direct and measurable impact on biodiversity restoration, protection and conservation.

The Boreal Songbird Initiative is a nonprofit organization dedicated to outreach and education about the importance of the boreal forest region to North America’s birds, other wildlife and the global environment.