Canadian Environmental Protection Act: memoranda of understanding

The Minister of the Environment may conclude memoranda of understanding (MOUs) or other arrangements with federal entities, industry associations, environmental non-governmental organizations, individual companies or universities. These MOUs generally set out commitments or undertakings to work towards a common goal for the betterment of environmental quality or to achieve protection of the environment.

For example, an MOU may contain agreement on actions such as:

  • adjustment of industrial processes to meet recommended levels of substances set out in Canada-wide standards,
  • reduction of the use of substances that have not yet been determined to be toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA), but whose presence in the environment is of concern and needs to be monitored, or
  • reporting to the public on progress in achieving the goals set out in the MOU.

An MOU can be a useful tool in meeting one of the obligations imposed by CEPA on the Government of Canada, namely to "apply the precautionary principle that, where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation".

Various MOUs signed by the Minister of the Environment in relation to CEPA are listed below:

  • Memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and Environment Canada (EC) - The process for risk management of uranium and uranium compounds contained in effluent from uranium mines and mills has been formalized in an Annex to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Environment Canada and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
  • Memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Government of Canada and the Canadian Chemical Producers' Association (CCPA) - Environment Canada, Industry Canada, Health Canada and the governments of Ontario and Alberta have signed an MOU with the CCPA that will lead to a reduction in pollutants, including those causing smog.
  • Memorandum of understanding (MOU) respecting the implementation of the Canada-wide standard on mercury for dental amalgam waste - An MOU that will lead to a reduction in the amount of dental amalgam waste discharged into the environment has been signed by the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) and Environment Canada.

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