2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada

Goal D. By 2020, Canadians are informed about the value of nature and more actively engaged in its stewardship.

Target 18. By 2020, biodiversity is integrated into the elementary and secondary school curricula.


  • The number of jurisdictions that have integrated biodiversity into elementary and secondary curricula

Why is this target important for Canada?

Youth education and awareness of biodiversity is essential if Canada is to grow its next generation of conservation and sustainable development leaders, mainstream biodiversity and meet its biodiversity conservation goals. Mainstreaming the understanding and importance of biodiversity will create a culture of appreciation, conservation, and action. This target emphasizes a key avenue for teaching Canada's youth about biodiversity, by integrating biodiversity into formal education.

Links to the Convention on Biological Diversity Strategic Plan 2011-2020.
This target for Canada is linked with the global Aichi Target 1.

Meeting the target

Provincial and Territorial educational systems are the key vehicle for integrating biodiversity issues into the formal curriculum documents. Efforts are already underway in various institutions across the country. In Ontario, for example, integrating biodiversity into curricula for Kindergarten to Grade 12 is included as a target in the provincial Biodiversity Strategy.

In a 2014 scan of provincial and territorial governments, of the five provinces and territories reporting, all indicate that biodiversity has been integrated in the elementary and secondary school curricula and all indicate that biodiversity is a specific unit or theme within the curriculum. Biodiversity is taught primarily in the Science or the Science and Technology subject areas across all grade levels. Additionally, in several provinces, key biodiversity concepts weave through different grades in other subject areas including Art, Career and Technology Studies, Social Studies, Health and Physical Education and Music.

The Council of Ministers of Education offers another vehicle for encouraging the integration of biodiversity into elementary and secondary school curricula through, for example, their Pan-Canadian Education for Sustainable Development Framework for Collaboration and Action.  

Integration into formal curricula is often supported by informal education at Canadian zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, National and Provincial parks, museums, outdoor education and environmental education centres and by organizations or programs focused on youth biodiversity education and awareness, such as Envirothon.

Key concepts

Curriculum documents: Define what students are taught in publicly funded schools. They detail the knowledge and skills that students are expected to develop in each subject at each grade level, and sets standards for the provinces and territories.

Mainstreaming: Integrating biodiversity considerations, specifically the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, into everyday decisions across all sectors of society, from the choices of individuals, to operational and investment decisions by private business, to public policy decisions.

How will progress be measured?

The indicator proposed for this target relies on data from provinces and territories. Data on the integration of biodiversity into elementary and secondary curricula would be gathered from provincial and territorial Ministries of Education. Case studies showcasing informal education activities related to biodiversity could also be gathered by Environment Canada, provinces and territories.


Target 19. By 2020, more Canadians get out into nature and participate in biodiversity conservation activities.


  • Percentage of Canadians who report that they take definite action to protect the environment
  • Participation in volunteer-based citizen-science monitoring programs
  • Trends in park or conservation area visitation
  • Trends in the percentage of Canadians who report that they visited parks or public greenspaces

Why is this target important for Canada?

Spending time in nature is a favourite pastime for many Canadians. In addition to being beneficial for our health, outdoor activities increase our connection with the natural world around us and encourage an understanding of the importance and beauty of nature. For many this helps foster recognition of the value of the natural world in maintaining our lives and encourages them to take part in efforts to conserve biodiversity. Many Canadians are becoming more active in biodiversity conservation efforts. Everyone has a part to play and an opportunity to lead by example. The benefits of biodiversity are also extending beyond the individual and are being considered within business plans, in green schools, on stages, in art galleries and in urban management plans. Moreover, achieving our biodiversity goals requires extensive collaboration and cooperation by all parts of society. This includes all levels of government, Aboriginal peoples, educational and scientific institutions, environmental non-government organizations, business, individual citizens and youth.

Time spent in nature and participation in biodiversity conservation activities could be good indicators of how Canadians understand and value biodiversity. The reported number of Canadians who willingly participate in, and seek out, sustainable nature-based activities or biodiversity conservation activities can be indicative of their interest in biodiversity in their home, backyard and communities. These activities can take many forms, including visits to parks and wilderness areas, stewardship, volunteering time with conservation organizations, citizen-science activities including monitoring programs, contributing financially and in-kind to conservation projects and causes or taking part in activities to discover and learn more about Canada's biodiversity.

Links to the Convention on Biological Diversity Strategic Plan 2011-2020.
This target for Canada is linked with the global Aichi Targets 1 and 4.

Meeting the target

Canadians spend a good deal of time in nature, visiting national and provincial parks and enjoying natural areas in their communities. The renaturalisation of urban spaces and the establishment of conservation areas nearer to large population centres, such as Rouge National Urban Park in the Greater Toronto Area, provide increasingly large numbers of Canadians with access to nature.

Canada has gained an international reputation for its strong stewardship and volunteer programs. There are millions of active environmental stewards in Canada, along with several thousand organizations dedicated to preserving biodiversity through a broad range of activities. The contribution these individuals and groups make to biodiversity is invaluable. Countless efforts to engage Canadians in biodiversity conservation are underway across the country, particularly at the local and regional level, through local environmental organizations and volunteer programs, and through government-run conservation programs such as EcoAction and the Habitat Stewardship Program.

Canadians are also contributing to our understanding of species through a variety of citizen-science programs. These include bird-monitoring programs such as the Breeding Bird Survey, which began in 1966 and is one of the oldest surveys of its kind in North America. Other citizen-science programs include Frogwatch, which uses frogs and toads as indicator species for monitoring the health of wetlands, and Plantwatch, which records flowering times as an important indicator of a changing climate.

Private, public and non-governmental organizations are all key players in getting Canadians into nature and involved in conservation activities. Participation can be tracked by examining trends in behaviour, such as park visitation and participation in relevant biodiversity related activities and programs.

Key concepts

Biodiversity conservation activities: The actions of communities, groups or individuals which contribute to or facilitate the conservation of nature including, for example, stewardship of natural areas, restoring habitat, reducing direct pressures on biodiversity, enhancing knowledge or understanding of the natural world and what can be done to conserve it, or increasing awareness of biodiversity values.

How will progress be measured?

The indicators proposed for this target rely on data from Statistics Canada, Environment Canada, federal and provincial Parks agencies and possibly others. Statistics Canada's Households and the Environment Survey provides data on the percentage of Canadians who report that they take definite action to protect the environment. Environment Canada and partners would provide data on volunteer-based activities such as the Breeding Bird Survey, Frogwatch, Plantwatch, and possibly many others. Case studies showcasing Canadians’ participation in biodiversity conservation activities could also be gathered by Environment Canada, provinces and territories.

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