Negative biodiversity trends are evident in Canada, in spite of its ecological and economic wealth and high governance capacity. We examined the current implementation of Canada’s national biodiversity strategy—the planning instrument to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity—through its existing legal framework. We did this by evaluating biodiversity-related strategies and plans and 201 federal, provincial, and territorial laws. We found that while most jurisdictions claim dedicated attention to biodiversity, there is little evidence of an integrated approach within provinces and territories and across the federation. Biodiversity conservation led by governments underscores the need for considerations of species and ecosystem services to be mainstreamed into economic and development decision-making. Key challenges to this include Canada’s unusual degree of decentralized constitutionally ascribed authority over natural assets and its historical and continued economic emphasis on extraction of natural resources—a conflict of interest for jurisdictions. Transitioning to scale-appropriate planning and integrated decision-making that can address the pressures and causes of biodiversity conservation in Canada will require transformative change. Law reform, while necessary, will not succeed unless accompanied by a whole-of government approach, a shift to a bio-centric mindset, innovative governance (particularly Indigenous-led conservation), and federal leadership with strong levels of financial investment.