Chapter 2. Canada and POPs

Canada is the world's second-largest country. Covering half a continent, bordering on three oceans and intersected by six time zones, it is characterized by its geographical, climatic, economic and social diversity. Canada's landscape includes rich plains in the western provinces, mountains in the West, a vast boreal forest, the Arctic tundra in the far North, the Canadian shield of rock and lakes in eastern and central Canada, and some of the Earth's largest lakes and longest rivers.

Canada's population in 2004 is approximately 31.4 million. A large majority (80%) of this population is urban, with 40 percent of it concentrated in five major urban centres: Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa (the national capital) and the Calgary/Edmonton corridor. Canada's most populous regions lie in the country's south along the U.S. border.6 The map on the following page depicts Canada's political boundaries and identifies the national and provincial capitals.

In 2002, Canada ranked sixth in the world in gross domestic product per capita. While much of Canada's wealth is based on natural resources such as forests, fossil fuels and other minerals, there are significant regional differences in Canada's economy: resource extractive industries are relatively more important in the east, west and north; agriculture plays an important role in the three prairie provinces; and manufacturing and services fuel Ontario's and Québec's economy.

Trade is the lifeblood of the Canadian economy, with exports accounting for more than 40 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), making Canada one of the most open economies in the world. Canada's leading exports are automobile vehicles and parts, machinery and equipment, high-technology products, oil, natural gas, metals, and forest and farm products. Canada and the United States have the largest and most comprehensive trading relationship in the world. Two-way trade between these two countries is now US$1.3 billion a day. More than 80 per cent of all Canadian exports go to the U.S., while nearly a quarter of U.S. exports come to Canada. Canada's exports to the U.S. and Mexico rose by 110 per cent between 1993 and 2000, driven by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Map of Canada. The map depicts Canada's political boundaries and identifies the national and provincial capitals.

Services are an equally important part of the Canadian economy. They constitute the single largest sector in Canada's economy, with 68% of total gross domestic product, 75% of employment and 53% of consumer spending. 7

Canada is a constitutional monarchy and a federal state (with 10 provinces, three territories and a number of self-governing Aboriginal communities) with a democratic system of government. The Canadian constitution of 1867 divides powers between the federal and provincial governments, stating that the federal government has jurisdiction over such matters as interprovincial and international trade, foreign affairs, communications, criminal law, fisheries, and Aboriginal affairs. Provincial government jurisdiction is over matters such as property and civil rights, local works and undertakings, municipal institutions and the development and management of natural resources. The federal and provincial governments exercise concurrent powers over agriculture. Although not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, the environment has emerged as an area of shared jurisdiction among the federal, provincial and territorial governments 8.

Although constitutional dependents of the federal government, the three territories (Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon) are gradually acquiring powers similar to those of the provinces. Constitutionally protected land claim and self-government agreements completed with some First Nations and Inuit recognize the inherent right of Aboriginal peoples to govern their own affairs, including the area of environment.

Because of the great diversity in climates, landform, vegetation, resources and economic activities, environmental stresses vary considerably across the country. In the boreal zones, some of the main concerns include ensuring sustainable use of forests and non-polluting mining operations. In agricultural and urban-based regions such as the Prairies, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Valley, and parts of the west coast, concerns include polluted drinking water, urban congestion, air pollution, and loss of both wildlife habitat and farmland. On the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, declining fish stocks and concerns regarding forestry practices and land-based pollution are also significant. In the Arctic, prime concerns are managing the impacts of resource development on a fragile ecosystem, and reducing the contamination of traditional food sources by toxic substances emitted from distant sources. The effects of climate change are also increasingly being felt in Canada's North and elsewhere.

The shared nature of environmental jurisdiction in Canada makes close cooperation among the federal, provincial, territorial and Aboriginal governments vital to the success of national environmental policies and objectives. In order to develop national policies and standards to address issues of common concern such as air quality and toxics management, a number of coordinating councils have been created in a variety of policy fields such as environment, energy, forestry, and protected areas.

Environmental issues in Canada are managed at different levels of government, depending on jurisdiction and scope. Federal interdepartmental bodies, the Canadian Council of Ministers for the Environment (CCME)9 and interjurisdictional working groups serve to coordinate the activities of government.

Developed in 1998, under the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment Harmonization Accord, Canada-wide Standards (CWS) represent commitments by Ministers to address environmental protection and health risk issues, including those posed by toxic chemicals.

Control of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material within Canada is subject to laws and regulations set in place by the federal, provincial and territorial governments. The federal government regulates international and inter-provincial/territorial movements. The provincial/territorial governments are responsible for the licensing of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material generators, carriers and treatment facilities as well as for regulating intra-provincial movements. Under the Canadian constitution, the federal government has the responsibility for all transboundary pollution issues, including those related to water and air.

As noted earlier, Canada's distribution of responsibility for environmental issues is complex. While the federal government conducts international treaty negotiations on behalf of Canada, the implementation of international agreements, depending on the subject matter, can be a shared responsibility among jurisdictions. The creation of consultative processes across all levels of government during both negotiations and implementation phases are both necessary and beneficial to effective environmental management.

Canada is a party to many international environmental agreements, as summarized in the Database of Canada's International Environmental Commitments10. In addition, Canada is an active participant in international discussions on global environmental issues. Environment Canada web pages on International Affairs11 provide additional information on Canada's international activities with respect to the environment.

Of particular importance to this National Implementation Plan are the following regional agreements:

Canada has demonstrated a commitment to implementing programs that address global issues since its participation in the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The 2002 Earth Summit, sometimes known as Rio +10, took place in Johannesburg, South Africa and brought together people from around the world to focus global attention on actions to achieve sustainable development. Canada participated at the Summit, where it tabled a national report on its progress towards sustainable development over the past decade. In the report, Canada concluded that its overall performance was consistent with that of most of its industrialized peers: its standard of living, its ecological footprint, the longevity and education of its citizens were all broadly comparable to those of G7 countries. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 15

The Government's principal framework for protecting Canadians and the environment from harmful substances is the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999). Under the authority of the Ministers of Environment and of Health, it is designed to ensure that potential risks from chemical substances, biotechnology products, industrial emissions, effluents and wastes are scientifically assessed and managed. It provides for strict controls of substances determined to be "toxic" and specifies time frames for developing and implementing preventive or control measures. It promotes cooperation/partnership with industry, environmental non-government organizations, Aboriginal peoples, educational institutions, municipalities, public health NGOs and provinces/territories.

Specific provisions of the Act provide a statutory process for identifying and managing toxic substances. Substances new to Canada are assessed before they are introduced into Canadian commerce. For substances already in use in Canada, the "Priority Substance List" identifies substances to be assessed on a priority basis to determine whether they are toxic. When a substance is found to be toxic under the Act, appropriate preventive or control measures are initiated to address the relevant sources. The objectives of these measures must be consistent with the Toxic Substances Management Policy (described below) and, where appropriate, the Fisheries Act. The Pest Control Products Act 16

The federal legislative authority for the regulation of pesticides in Canada is the Pest Control Products Act (PCPA). The Pest Management Regulatory Agency, an Agency of the Crown under the Minister of Health, administers the PCPA for the federal government. Under the PCPA, a pesticide is a chemical, organism or device used to control, destroy, repel, attract or reduce pests. This includes, for example, insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides that are used in agriculture, forestry, industry, public health and domestic settings. Any pesticide imported into, sold or used in Canada must first be registered under the PCPA.

A pesticide cannot be registered under the PCPA unless the PMRA determines that any associated risks to people and the environment are acceptable. The product must also serve a useful purpose. Any aspect of the pesticide, including all uses, downstream effects and disposal, may be taken into account during this pre-market assessment. The onus rests with the applicant to conduct extensive tests to demonstrate that the risks and value of the product are acceptable.

Under the PCPA, Canada has already taken action on many POPs. The properties of many of the POPs pesticides prompted severe use restrictions by the mid 1990's. The use of all POPs pesticides registered in Canada has since been completely discontinued. The Toxic Substances Management Policy (TSMP) 17

The federal Toxic Substances Management Policy (TSMP) puts forward a preventive and precautionary approach to deal with substances that enter the environment and could harm the environment or human health. Its key management objectives are:

A substance is considered ‘toxic' under the Policy if, after a scientific assessment or decisions taken under federal programs, it either meets or is equivalent to the definition of a "toxic substance" found under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999). Substances that meet all four criteria (persistence, bioaccumulation, toxicity and primarily the result of human activity) are classified as Track 1 substances and the management objective under the TSMP is virtual elimination. If some but not all of the criteria are met, the substance is classified as a Track 2 substance and a life cycle management objective applies.

POPstargeted for action under the Stockholm Convention are designated as Track 1 substances under the TSMP and targeted for virtual elimination.

The federal Toxics Substances Management Policy (TSMP) is closely related to the CCME national Policy for the Management of Toxic Substances (PMTS).

All provinces and territories have legislation and regulations to manage air quality, toxic substances and/or pesticides (see the Table below). Most provinces and territories have (a) statutes dealing with environmental protection, with regulations and/or permitting or approvals systems for stationary point sources that discharge pollutants to the atmosphere, and (b) legislation related to pesticides and regulations that establish a system for managing pesticide use. Two provinces have a Clean Air Act.

Province/Territory Legislation/Regulations
British Columbia
  • BC Waste Management Act
  • Special Waste Regulation
  • Various other regulations
  • Pesticide Control Act
  • Environment Act (1991)
  • Pesticides Regulations
  • Air Emissions Regulation
  • Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act
  • Approvals and Registrations Regulation
  • Activities Designation Regulation
  • Substance Release Regulation
  • Release Reporting Regulation
  • Pesticide (Ministerial) Regulation
  • Pesticide Sales, Handling, Use and Application Regulation
  • NWT Environmental Protection Act
  • Pesticide Act
  • Clean Air Act
  • Clean Air Act Regulations
  • Environment Act and Regulations
  • Incinerators Regulation
  • Peat Smoke Control Regulation
  • Pesticides Regulation
  • Pesticides and Fertilizers Control Act and its associated regulations
  • Environmental Protection Act
  • Pesticides Act and Regulations
  • Regulation 346 General Air Pollution
  • Regulation 337 Ambient Air Quality Criteria
  • Various other regulations
  • Environmental Quality Act
  • Quality of the Atmosphere Regulations
  • Pesticides Act and associated regulations
  • Regulation respecting permits and certificates for the sale and use of pesticides
  • Regulation respecting hazardous materials
  • Regulation respecting solid waste
  • Industrial Waste Reduction Program (certificates for existing plants)
New Brunswick
  • Clean Air Act
  • Pesticides Control Act
  • Air Quality Regulations
  • Pesticides Regulations
Nova Scotia
  • Environment Act
  • Activities Designation Regulation
  • Air Quality Regulations
  • PCB Management Regulations
  • Pesticides Regulations
  • Dangerous Goods Management Regulations
  • Emergency Spill Regulations
Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Environmental Protection Act
  • Air Pollution Control Regulations
  • Pesticide Control Regulations
  • Storage of PCB Wastes Regulations
  • Waste Management Regulations
  • Environmental Assessment Regulations
Prince Edward Island
  • Environment Act
  • Air Quality Regulation
  • Pesticide Control Act
  • Nunavut Environmental Protection Act
  • Pesticide Act

The Canadian Environmental Network (CEN)18 is a national network of over 700 community-based, national and regional environmental non-governmental organizations, and provides an effective consultation mechanism for effective capacity-building within the broader environmental community. The CEN played an important role in developing Canada's approach during negotiation of the Convention and a CEN representative served as a member of the Canadian delegation at each of the INC sessions. The CEN continues to provide federal and provincial governments with their views and advice regarding the management of POPs in Canada.

National and provincial roundtables that include private, nonprofit and public sector members are another example of coalition-building institutions that identify, explain and promote the principles and practices of sustainable development.

A 1998 Consultations Directive requires federal departments to identify in each Memorandum to Cabinet the key stakeholders consulted, the consultation process employed, the outcomes, and any follow-up consultations planned as part of the implementation of a policy. The federal document Policy Statement and Guidelines on Consulting and Engaging Canadians recognizes that in order to serve Canadians, a "citizen focus" must be built into all federal government activities, programs and services. An integral component of this service is providing information to citizens, and consulting and engaging citizens in the policy development process. The policy statement and guidelines explore new ways in which governments will be able to consult and engage Canadians.

Other non-governmental structures also play a key role in Canada's environmental management regime. For example, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) promotes sustainable development in decision-making internationally and within Canada. The IISD also provided reporting services for negotiations related to the Stockholm Convention. The Public Policy Forum is a non-partisan, non-profit organization aimed at improving the quality of government in Canada through better dialogue between government, the private and voluntary sectors. Institutions (e.g., universities, foundations) are also important to furthering understanding of POPs.

The Government of Canada recognizes the inherent right of self-government by Aboriginal Peoples as an existing right within section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Recognition of the inherent right is based on the view that the Aboriginal peoples of Canada have the right to govern themselves in relation to matters that are internal to their communities, integral to their unique cultures, identities, traditions, languages and institutions, and with respect to their land and resources. Aboriginal groups, including the Inuit Circumpolar Conference and others, were part of Canada's delegation during the negotiations leading up to the Stockholm Convention; the partnership will continue in implementation of Canada's obligations.

Part of Canada's Women's Health Strategy is the reduction of environmental hazards that threaten women's health. Under this strategy, Canada will accelerate screening and assessment of new and existing substances, improve management and control of toxic substances, and track progress. Canada recognizes the key role that indigenous women play in environmental health, and their sensitivity to environmental change. It supports the involvement of indigenous women in federal efforts to meet commitments under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, and in activities of circumpolar countries to enhance the contribution of indigenous and northern women to sustainable development.

Many municipalities in Canada have adopted environmental initiatives. Local authorities generally include environmental and social considerations in their official plans, planning by-laws, and general policies. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) is the structure that coordinates and consolidates partnerships among municipalities throughout provinces and territories.

There are various industry-led initiatives aimed at protecting Canada's human health and environment. One example is Responsible Care®, a voluntary initiative within the global chemical industry to promote the safe handling of our products from inception in the

research laboratory, through production, distribution, use and disposal. It also involves the public in the decision-making processes. Initiated in Canada in 1987, Responsible Care has expanded to 45 countries. It commits companies to improved environmental, health and safety performance through implementing six Codes of Management Practices. The six Codes stretch across all business activities, and include a comprehensive set of management practices that are designed to continuously improve virtually every aspect of a product's life-cycle.

6 Statistics Canada, Canada At A Glance, 2003


8 Government of Canada, Sustainable Development: A Canadian Perspective, 2002.


10 The database can be found at :

11 Found at

12 Note that substances in bold text were not included in the Stockholm Convention at the point of entry into force of the Protocol.


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