Overview of Canadian Environmental Protection Act

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) is an important part of Canada's federal environmental legislation aimed at preventing pollution and protecting the environment and human health. The goal of CEPA 1999 is to contribute to sustainable development - development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

CEPA 1999 came into force on March 31, 2000 following an extensive Parliamentary review of the first CEPA. CEPA 1999 contains significant improvements for the protection of the environment over the previous Act. It:

  • makes pollution prevention the cornerstone of national efforts to reduce toxic substances in the environment;
  • sets out processes to assess the risks to the environment and human health posed by substances in commerce;
  • imposes timeframes for managing toxic substances;
  • provides a wide range of tools to manage toxic substances, other pollution and wastes;
  • ensures the most harmful substances are phased out or not released into the environment in any measurable quantity;
  • includes provisions to regulate vehicle, engine and equipment emissions;
  • strengthens enforcement of the Act and its regulations;
  • encourages greater citizen input into decision-making; and
  • allows for more effective cooperation and partnership with other governments and Aboriginal peoples.

For more information about CEPA 1999, please refer to A Guide to Understanding the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. To read the complete Act, the full on-line version of CEPA 1999 is available in The Act section of the Environmental Registry. You can also download a printable copy in a portable document format (1767 KB).

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