Canadian Environmental Protection Act glossary

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Administrative agreements

Administrative agreements are work-sharing arrangements between the federal government and provincial and territorial governments, aboriginal governments or an aboriginal people (for example, Band Councils). The agreements can include inspections, investigations, information gathering, monitoring and reporting of collected data. These agreements do not release the federal government from any of its responsibilities under the law, nor do they delegate legislative power from one government to another.

Agreements (section)

Agreements respecting environmental data and research are usually cooperative arrangements with a provincial, territorial, aboriginal or foreign government or any person respecting the creation, operation, and maintenance of a system for monitoring environmental quality. This section provides descriptions and links for all equivalency and administrative agreements entered into under CEPA. It also contains links to related International and Federal/Provincial/Territorial Agreements such as Canada-Wide Standards, Environmental Performance Agreements and Memoranda of Understanding.

Air quality

Scientists collect and analyze samples of air in different regions of Canada on a regular basis to determine pollutant levels. This information is not only used by decision-makers to pinpoint the sources of air pollution and determine strategies for reducing it, but also to produce daily air-quality forecasts that warn Canadians when smog levels are high.

Archives (section)

Documents posted on the CEPA Environmental Registry are periodically replaced by more current versions and the previous versions archived for reference purposes. This section also contains links to past Public Consultation and What's New notices as well as archived information from the former act, CEPA 1988.

Authorizations for ozone-depleting substances

Under the Ozone-depleting Substances Regulations, every person must receive written authorization from the Minister of the Environment prior to manufacturing, importing or exporting a controlled substance. There are two types of authorization: permits and allowances. Permits must be obtained to import or export used, recovered, recycled, and reclaimed ozone-depleting substances. Allowances provide authorization for the production and importation of unused hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and methyl bromide for circumstances not governed by permits. At the end of each year, the authorizations provided by permits, allowances and transfers lapse.



The term used to describe a collection of technologies that use living organisms to create improved products and processes. These technologies are being used to develop new medicines, to improve yields from fish stocks, forest growth and agricultural crops, to promote energy production from biological sources, to improve treatment of liquid effluents, and to assist in cleanup of wastes and the environment.

Board of review

CEPA sets out procedures for establishing and conducting Boards of Review in response to notices of objection filed by members of the public. Any person may file a notice of objection to a decision, an order or a proposed regulation and request that Board of review be established. The Ministers can establish a Board of Review when a request for such a Board is filed during the 60-day public comment period that follows publication of the CEPA instruments (that is, agreements, regulations, etc) in the Canada Gazette.


Canada Gazette

The Canada Gazette is the "official newspaper" of the Government of Canada. It has been published regularly by the Queen's Printer since 1841. In it are published new statutes and regulations, proposed regulations, decisions of administrative boards and an assortment of government notices. Private sector notices which are required by statute to be published so as to inform to the public also appear in the Canada Gazette.

Canada-wide standards

Canada-wide standards (CWS) are intergovernmental agreements developed under the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) Canada-wide environmental standards sub-agreement. CWS allow federal, provincial and territorial Ministers to work together to address key environmental protection and health risk issues that require common environmental standards across the country. CWS can include qualitative or quantitative standards, guidelines, objectives and criteria for protecting the environment and reducing risks to human health.

CEPA management committee

The CEPA management committee was established as a result of the 1990 Memorandum of Understanding between Environment Canada and Health Canada concerning toxic substances and CEPA. It oversees Environment Canada and Health Canada programs dealing with priority substances, new chemicals and biotechnology products, the development of regulatory and non-regulatory control options for toxic substances, amendments to CEPA and its regulations and other related issues. Joint subcommittees have been set up to address new chemicals and toxic substances.

CEPA review (section)

This section contains information related to the Parliamentary review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) including an explanation of each phase of the process. The act and its administration must be reviewed by Parliament every five years. The review provides an opportunity for Canadians to provide feedback on how well they feel the act is protecting the environment and human health.

Codes of practice

Environmental codes of practice recommend procedures, practices, or quantities of releases relating to facilities and activities during any phase of development of and operation involving a substance, and any subsequent monitoring activities.

Compliance (law)

Compliance means conformity with the law. Environment Canada ensures compliance with legislation through two types of activity: promotion and enforcement.

Contamination (water)

Water is considered contaminated if it contains chemical or biological pollutants that are harmful to human health or the environment.


Disposal at sea

Each year in Canada, two to three million tonnes of material is disposed of at sea. Most of this is material dredged from ocean floors that must be moved to keep shipping channels and harbours clear for navigation and commerce. CEPA covers the disposal of certain substances at sea from ships, aircraft, platforms or other structures. Discharges from land-based facilities or from normal ship operations are not considered disposal at sea, but are subject to controls under other acts.

Disposal at sea permit

A Disposal at sea permit is required by anyone who intends to dispose of materials at sea. It sets out conditions controlling the disposal, including the type of material, the quantity, the location of the loading site and disposal site, equipment use and requirements and restrictions such as reporting to the Canadian coast guard or restrictions on the timing of disposal operations.

Domestic substances list

The Domestic substances list includes substances that were, between January 1, 1984, and December 31, 1986, in commercial use in Canada, or were used for commercial manufacturing purposes, or were manufactured in or imported into Canada in a quantity of 100 kg or more in any one calendar year. The list is regularly amended to include additional substances that have been assessed under the act and allowed into Canada. The Domestic Substances List currently contains approximately 23 000 substances from the original list along with an additional 1954 substances that have been added to the list following assessments of new substances.


Ecosystem approach

Based on natural geographic units rather than political boundaries, the ecosystem approach recognizes the interrelationships between land, air, water, wildlife, and human activities. It also considers environmental, social and economic elements that affect the environment as a whole.

Emergency response

An emergency response is an action carried out in a particular community or region to protect human health and the environment from the impacts of an environmental emergency, such as a forest fire or a chemical spill.


Enforcement embodies those activities that compel adherence to legal requirements. These activities include inspection and monitoring; investigation of violations; issuance of notices to individuals or businesses to require them to correct improper practices; issuance of tickets for violations; seizure of wildlife, or their parts and products, and any item that may have been used to commit the offence; and prosecution.

Enforcement and compliance (section)

This section contains documents, data and statistics on enforcement and compliance issues including information on the role and principles of CEPA enforcement, review officers, enforcement measures, environmental protection alternative measures, Environmental Damages Fund as well as prosecutions under CEPA.

Enforcement officers

Enforcement officers have all the powers of a peace officer for the purposes of enforcing the act. They also have inspection powers similar to those contained in many other federal statutes. These inspection powers, used for the purpose of verifying compliance, include the authority to enter premises; open containers and examine their contents; take samples; and conduct tests and measurements, and obtain access to information (including data stored on computers).

Environmental assessment

Carrying out an environmental assessment means determining or estimating the value, significance or extent of damage to a particular ecosystem or aspect of it.

Environmental damages fund

The Environmental damages fund (EDF) helps ensure polluters take responsibility for their actions. It gives courts a way to guarantee that the money from pollution penalties and settlements is directly invested to repair the actual harm done by the pollution. Environment and Climate Change Canada administers the fund, and accounts for each award separately, so that the money can then be used to fund projects in the same community in which the pollution has occurred. The money in the fund is allocated to local organizations, which often use it as seed money to find partners who contribute additional money and resources. Groups who receive funding must carry out their projects in a technically feasible, scientifically sound and cost-effective way.

Environmental emergency

An environmental emergency, as defined in CEPA, is an uncontrolled, unplanned or accidental release of a substance (listed in regulations made under Part 8) into the environment or the reasonable likelihood of such a release that may affect the environment or human health.

Environmental emergency plans

Environmental emergency plans require persons to prepare and implement a plan regarding the prevention of, preparedness for, response to, and recovery from an environmental emergency.

Environmental monitoring

Monitoring, or making systematic geo-referenced observations of the environment - such as measuring water level or counting trees - is essential to detecting changes in ecosystems over time.

Environmental performance agreements

An Environmental performance agreement is an agreement with core design criteria negotiated among parties to achieve specified environmental results. Environment and Climate Change Canada may negotiate a performance agreement with a single company, multiple companies, regional industry associations, a sector association or a number of sector associations. Other government agencies (federal, provincial, territorial or municipal) and third parties (non-government organizations) may also be parties to such agreements.

Environmental protection alternative measures

Environmental protection alternative measures (EPAMs) are an alternative to court prosecution for a violation of CEPA. EPAMs under CEPA divert the accused - whether a company, individual or government agency - away from the court process after the person is charged. An EPAM is an agreement negotiated with the accused by the Attorney General of Canada, in consultation with the Minister of the Environment. The EPAM will contain measures that the accused must take in order to restore compliance.

Environmental protection compliance orders (EPCOs)

EPCOs are orders that enforcement officers may issue to: put an immediate stop to a CEPA violation; prevent a violation from occurring in the first place; or require action to be taken to correct a violation. These orders are one of the tools under CEPA that allow handling of offences without formal court prosecution.

Environmental quality objectives

Environmental quality objectives recommend qualitative or quantitative goals or purposes for pollution prevention or control of toxic substances. They often recommend ambient environmental quality targets or maximum acceptable levels.

Equivalency agreements

Equivalency agreements exist where provincial, territorial or aboriginal environmental legislation has requirements that are comparable to the CEPA requirements. The intent is to eliminate the duplication of environmental regulations. The equivalent regulation does not have to have the same wording as the CEPA regulation, but have the same effect. The provincial, territorial or aboriginal government must also have a mechanism that allows individuals to request an investigation of alleged violations.

Existing substances

An "existing substance" is one that is being or has been used in Canada as a commercial substance or product, or released into the Canadian environment as a single substance, effluent, mixture, or contaminant.

Export control list

The Export control list (Schedule 3 of the act) contains substances whose export is controlled because their use in Canada is prohibited or severely restricted or because Canada has accepted, through an international agreement, to control their export. Prohibited substances can be exported only if they are to be destroyed or if the export is in compliance with regulations.


General information (section)

This section relates to the overall delivery of CEPA. It contains information on the National Advisory Committee, the CEPA Management Committee and links to CEPA annual reports. This section also contains a variety of fact sheets related to CEPA as well as a glossary of terms used on the Registry.

Greenhouse gases

Greenhouse gases are gases that absorb and trap heat in the atmosphere and cause a warming effect on earth. Some occur naturally in the atmosphere, while others result from human activities. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, chlorofluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons.


Environmental release guidelines include standards expressed as concentrations or quantities, for the release of substances into the environment from facilities or activities. Environmental quality guidelines can be developed to recommend a concentration for toxic substances in surface water, agricultural water, soil, sediment, and human and animal tissue. Guidelines may also be developed to prevent, prepare for, or respond to an environmental emergency or to restore environmental quality.

Guidelines / codes of practices (section)

This section addresses non-regulatory Environment Canada and Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) instruments including environmental quality objectives, guidelines, guidance manuals, national standards and codes of practice.


Hazardous waste

Hazardous waste includes a wide range of residues from industrial production including used solvents, acids and bases, leftovers from oil refining and the manufacture of chemicals and metal processing. Several common consumer products, including old car batteries and oil-based paints are also hazardous once they are discarded. The nature and concentration of certain chemicals in many wastes makes them potentially hazardous to the environment and human health. They have characteristics such as flammability, toxicity and corrosivity. They may represent an immediate danger, such as ability to burn skin on contact, or longer-term environmental or human health risks due to accumulation and persistence of toxic substances in the environment.


International agreements

In Canada, the federal government has the authority to negotiate and enter into international agreements. CEPA and CEPA regulations implement a number of these agreements.


While "management tools" refers generally to the full suite of tools available to manage a toxic substance, a "CEPA instrument" means those instruments that are authorized under CEPA and includes regulations. For a risk management instrument to satisfy CEPA's requirements, it must not simply be made under a provision of CEPA, but must also pass the "legal test" of establishing preventive or control actions that reduce or eliminate the risks to the environment or human health. Each instrument is assessed on a case-by-case basis to determine whether this requirement is met. Examples of preventive or control instruments include: regulations, pollution prevention plans, environmental emergency plans, environmental codes of practice and environmental release guidelines.

Intergovernmental cooperation

CEPA reflects that all governments have the authority to protect the environment and directs the federal government to endeavour to act in cooperation with governments in Canada to ensure that federal actions are complementary to and avoid duplication with other governments.


Level of quantification

The level of quantification is a scientific determination. It is defined as the lowest concentration of a substance that can be accurately measured using sensitive but routine sampling and analytical methods. A sampling and analytical method can be considered "routine" if the equipment and knowledge required to carry out the method is common in commercial laboratories involved in micro-pollutant analysis, recognizing that minor adjustments may be required.


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.

Monitoring and research (section)

This section provides information arising from the requirements of CEPA for the department to engage in research and monitoring. This includes an overview of Environment and Climate Change Canada's research services and information on a variety of monitoring programs, action plans, projects, inventories and testing methods as well as examples of research conducted under CEPA including air, contaminated sites, water quality, ecosystem initiatives, hormone-disrupting substances, technology development, toxic substances, pharmaceuticals in the environment and wildlife.


National advisory committee

The National advisory committee is composed of one representative for each of the federal Ministers of the Environment and Health, representatives from each province and territory and six representatives of aboriginal governments drawn from across Canada. An aboriginal government means a governing body that, through an agreement with the Government of Canada, is authorized to enact laws respecting the protection of the environment or the registration of vehicles or engines. The Committee advises the Ministers on actions taken under the act, which enables national, cooperative action and avoids duplication in regulatory activity among governments. The Committee also serves as the single window into provincial and territorial governments and representatives of aboriginal governments on offers to consult.

National pollutant release inventory

The National pollutant release inventory (NPRI) provides Canadians with access to information on the releases and transfers of key pollutants in their communities. Established in 1992 and legislated under CEPA, the NPRI requires companies to report information on releases and transfers of pollutants to the Government of Canada on an annual basis. Environment Canada makes the information available to Canadians in an annual public report, and maintains a detailed inventory that can be accessed and searched through an on-line database.

National standards

CEPA reinforces the role of national leadership to achieve ecosystem health and sustainable development by providing for the creation of science-based, national environmental standards.

New substances

A "new substance" is one that is not on the Domestic Substances List (DSL). The DSL was originally an inventory of approximately 23 000 substances manufactured in, imported to or used in Canada on a commercial scale. It is based on substances that were present in Canada, under certain conditions, between January 1, 1984 and December 31, 1986. New substances that are deemed eligible after assessment are added to the DSL, thus becoming "existing substances".

Non-domestic substances list

The Non-domestic substances list is an inventory of substances that are not on the Domestic Substances List, but are accepted as being in commercial use internationally. The list is based on the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Toxic Substances Control Act Chemical Substances Inventory, and contains more than 58 000 entries.

Notices (section)

CEPA requires the Minister to advise Canadians of a wide variety of activities taking place under the act. These include priority substance assessments, approvals of ocean-dumping permits, negotiated agreements, guidelines, codes of practice, information requests for data regarding substances and requirements for environmental emergency or pollution prevention plans, amongst others.


Nutrients, as defined in CEPA, are substances that promote the growth of aquatic vegetation. CEPA provides authority to regulate nutrients that degrade or have a negative impact on an aquatic ecosystem, such as nutrients contained in cleaning products and water conditioners (that is, level of phosphates in laundry detergent).


Orders (section)

Orders are the means by which the government exercises decision-making authorities provided under the act. These decisions include introduction of and changes to regulations, adding substances to the Domestic Substances List (DSL) and deleting those same substances from the Non-Domestic Substances List (NDSL), adding substances to the Toxic Substances List as well as actions taken to deal with a significant impact to the environment or to human life or health.


Ozone is a naturally occurring gas, formed from normal oxygen, that protects the earth by filtering out ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Most of the world's ozone is concentrated in the stratosphere, 10-50 kilometres above the earth's surface.


Permits (section)

A permit is written authorization from the Minister of the Environment to carry out certain activities at a specific location(s) within a specified period of time. A permit contains any conditions that the Minister considers necessary in the interests of human life, the environment, and terrain or marine life. A permit specifies the activity (or activities) permitted, as well as the exact location(s) and time-frame(s) for which it is valid. Currently, under CEPA, permits are issued for three activities: disposal at sea, transboundary movement of hazardous waste, and ozone-depleting substances.


CEPA provides for planning in the areas of pollution prevention, virtual elimination, environmental emergencies and plans for the reduction or phase-out of exports of wastes destined for final disposal. Descriptions of these plans and guidance documents, as required for their development, are available.


Environment and Climate Change Canada may develop policies (that is, Compliance and Enforcement Policy, Toxic Substances Management Policy, Pollution Prevention Planning) to provide a definite course or method of action to guide and determine present and future decisions under CEPA. Policies can provide a high-level overall plan to embrace the general goals and acceptable procedures of the act or can provide direction on how laws or regulations will be implemented. Policies are not law, but may form the basis for laws and regulations.

Polluter pays principle

CEPA embodies the principle that users and producers of pollutants and wastes should bear the responsibility for their actions. Companies or people that pollute should pay the costs they impose on society.

Pollution (industry)

Any substance that is present in or has been introduced into the environment and has harmful or unpleasant effects. Pollution comes in many forms, and may be present in air, land, water, or organisms. Although some pollution is from natural sources, most is produced by human activities.

Pollution (ocean)

Any substance introduced into the ocean that has unpleasant or harmful effects. Although ocean pollution often comes from direct sources, such as sewage or industrial liquid waste emitted by sewage treatment plants, industries, septic tanks, or waste dumped by oceangoing vessels, it may also fall out of the atmosphere or seep in from surrounding land.

Pollution (water)

Any substance introduced into water or a body of water that has unpleasant or harmful effects. Although water pollution often comes from direct sources, such as effluent emitted into lakes and rivers by industries, it may also fall out of the atmosphere or seep in from surrounding land.

Pollution prevention

The use of processes, practices, materials, products, substances or energy that avoid or minimize the creation of pollutants and waste, and reduce the overall risk to the environment or human health.

Pollution prevention plans

Pollution prevention plans require the preparation and implementation of a plan outlining actions to prevent or minimize the creation or release of pollutants and waste. The plan would also identify recycling, treatment and other measures needed to meet environmental goals.

Precautionary principle

The government's actions to protect the environment and health are guided by the precautionary principle, which states 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."

Preparedness (environmental emergencies)

Readiness to respond to an environmental emergency is crucial to minimizing the harmful effects it could have on the environment.

Prevention (environmental emergencies)

There are a variety of methods to help prevent environmental emergencies from occurring, whenever possible. These include education, regulations and other legal instruments governing the handling of hazardous materials.

Priority substances list

The CEPA priority substances list continues to be used to focus on those chemicals and other substances that require investigation on a priority and in-depth basis to determine if they are toxic under the act. Substances can be added to the Priority substances list when a more comprehensive assessment is required following a screening assessment or review of another jurisdiction's decision. Also, any person may ask the Minister to add a substance to that list. CEPA  requires that the substance be assessed within five years from the date the substance is added to the list.

Public consultations (section)

This section provides timely notice of current public consultation opportunities, links to relevant documents and contact persons as well as archives of past public consultations.

Public participation

CEPA includes a section that specifically addresses enhanced opportunities for public participation, including: information-sharing through the CEPA environmental registry, the right to request that the Minister investigate an alleged violation of the act, citizen right-to-sue provisions, and enhanced whistle-blower protection. CEPA also gives members of the public the opportunity to participate in many decisions taken on toxic substances, including: the right to request the addition of a substance to the Priority Substances List, the right to file a notice of objection and to request a board of review, and the right to provide comments on various initiatives.

Publications (section)

Many CEPA-related reports, papers, book chapters, articles and manuscripts have been published by Environment and Climate Change Canada and Health Canada scientists. These publications appear in books and scientific journals and are available in libraries and from the publishers. Departmental publications are available from Environment and Climate Change Canada.


Regulations (section)

Regulations impose restrictions on an activity related to a substance, or set limits on the concentrations of a substance that can be used, released to the environment or be present in a product. This section provides the full text of proposed and current regulations, as well as brief summaries of the regulation content.

Regulatory impact assessment statement

A Regulatory impact assessment statement (RIAS) must accompany every regulatory proposal submitted for Government approval. The purpose of the RIAS is to ensure that federal Government intervention is justified, that Canadians have been consulted, that regulation is the best alternative, that the proposed approach maximises the benefits and minimises the burden on Canadians, and that suitable compliance mechanisms are in place.


A systematic investigation to establish facts. Much of Environment and Climate Change Canada's work involves conducting research on a wide range of environmental topics.

Review of decisions of other jurisdictions

CEPA calls for cooperating and developing procedures for exchanging information on substances with other governments in Canada and member states of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. When the Minister of the Environment receives information that another government has prohibited or substantially restricted a substance for environmental or health reasons, the Ministers of the Environment and Health are obliged to review the decision. The review determines whether the substance is toxic or capable of becoming toxic in the Canadian environment.

Risk assessments

Risk assessments done under CEPA consider impacts on human and non-human organisms and the physical environment. These assessments consider not only the hazard posed by a substance, but the exposure or likelihood that a person, organism or the environment will come in contact with that substance. The exposure or potential for exposure of a substance depends on the amount of substance released into the environment and its fate. The conclusion of the assessment is based on the application of the precautionary principle and a weight of evidence approach.

Risk management

Risk management is the process of selecting and implementing management actions on an assessed risk, taking into account a wide range of legal, economic and social factors. While CEPA provides for certain risk management instruments developed under the act such as regulations, pollution prevention plans, guidelines and codes of practice, other tools such as voluntary agreements, other acts of parliament or provincial/territorial actions may also be suitable to manage particular risks posed by a substance.


Science and technology

Science is a branch of knowledge conducted on objective principles involving the systematized observation of and experiments with phenomena - particularly those concerned with the material and functions of the physical universe. Science is the foundation of Environment and Climate Change Canada's policies, programs and regulations. Technology is the application of scientific knowledge to practical uses.

Science assessment

A science assessment is an objective appraisal of existing scientific knowledge on an issue or subject, for the purpose of transferring relevant information to policy makers, the general public, science audiences and others.


An annex or appendix at the end of a legal document (that is, an act or regulation) that contains extra information (i.e lists, forms, detailed information). CEPA has six Schedules (the List of Toxic Substances, two lists of acts and regulations, the Export Control List, a list of waste or other matter that may be disposed of at sea and an assessment of waste or other matter).

Significant new activity

A significant new activity is an alternative use of a substance or other activity that results or may result in: a significantly greater quantity or concentration of the substance in the environment; or a significantly different manner or circumstances of exposure to the substance. If there is a suspicion that a significant new activity in relation to the substance may result in the substance becoming toxic, the substance can be subject to a Significant New Activity Notice.

Significant new activity notice

The notice communicates the criteria under which the government must be re-notified in relation to a substance. The government assesses the new information on the substance to determine if it is toxic in relation to the significant new activity. Significant new activities can apply to existing substances on the Domestic Substances List or to new substances.

Smog (ground-level ozone)

Smog is formed in the Earth's lower atmosphere, near ground level, when pollutants emitted by cars, power plants, industrial boilers, refineries, chemical plants, and other sources react chemically in the presence of sunlight. Ninety per cent of all smog found in urban areas is made up of ground-level ozone-the same chemical found in the stratosphere. In large enough quantities, ground-level ozone can cause respiratory problems in humans and other animals, and damage to plants and building materials.

Substance lists (section)

In order to distinguish new substances from existing ones and to prescribe reporting requirements for new substances, Environment and Climate Change Canada has established substance inventories or "lists". This section provides links to information and web pages related to specific substance lists (that is, priority substances, export control, non-domestic substances, domestic substances, and toxic substances) as well as information on assessments and toxics management and the National Pollutant Release Inventory.


A substance as defined under CEPA includes any distinguishable kind of organic or inorganic matter, whether animate or inanimate that is capable of being released as a single substance, an effluent, emission, waste or a mixture into the Canadian environment.

Sustainable development

The Government of Canada's environmental protection strategies are driven by a vision of environmentally sustainable economic development. This vision depends on a clean, healthy environment and a strong, healthy economy that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.


Toxic (under CEPA 1999)

Determining a substance to be toxic under CEPA 1999 is a function of its release or possible release into the environment, the resulting concentrations in environmental media and its inherent toxicity. Section 64 of CEPA 1999 defines a substance as toxic "if it is entering or may enter the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that: have or may have an immediate or long-term harmful effect on the environment or its biological diversity; constitute or may constitute a danger to the environment on which life depends; or constitute or may constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health."

Toxic substances list

Substances that meet the definition of toxic under CEPA can be placed on Schedule 1 of the act, the List of toxic substances. This does not control the substance, but allows the Government to proceed with regulations, pollution prevention plans or environmental emergency plans.

Transboundary permits

Transboundary permits apply to movements of hazardous wastes and hazardous recyclable materials that are exported or imported out of and into Canada respectively, including transits passing through Canadian territory en route to a foreign destination. These permits provide a way of controlling and tracking the movements of hazardous wastes and hazardous recyclable materials into and out of Canada. A transboundary permit is required by anyone who intends to transport across an international border hazardous waste destined for final disposal or hazardous recyclable material, which is destined for recovery (that is, recycling).


Virtual elimination

CEPA requires the virtual elimination of releases of substances that are persistent (take a long time to break down), bioaccumulative (collect in living organisms and end up in the food chain), toxic (according to CEPA Section 64) and primarily the result of human activities. Virtual elimination is the reduction of releases to the environment of a substance to a level below which its release cannot be accurately measured.

Virtual elimination (VE) list

To be added to the VE List, a substance must be toxic (on the List of Toxic Substances). A toxic substance will be proposed for virtual elimination if, as the result of an assessment, it is be determined to be persistent and bioaccumulative, entering the environment primarily as a result of human activity, and not a naturally occurring radionuclide or a naturally occurring inorganic substance. CEPA requires the ministers to add substances for virtual elimination to the VE List with a level of quantification by way of publication in the Canada Gazette.

Virtual elimination plans

As part of implementing virtual elimination under the act, the Minister of the Environment has the authority to require the preparation and submission of plans regarding virtual elimination. The virtual elimination plan is to describe the proposed actions to take to implement virtual elimination, and the amount of time needed to complete such actions. The plan may also include relevant information respecting measurable quantities or concentration of the substance, environmental or health risks and social, economic or technical factors.


Waste management

Disposal, processing, controlling, recycling, and reusing the solid, liquid, and gaseous wastes of plants, animals, humans, and other organisms. It includes control within a closed ecological system to maintain a habitable environment. Some of the waste materials involved are hazardous while others are simply so voluminous that their permanent disposal becomes a problem.

Water quality

The quality of water as determined by its chemical and bacterial composition. To ensure the safety of drinking water in Canada, maximum allowable limits exist for all potentially harmful contaminants.

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