Canadian Environmental Protection Act annual report 2017 to 2018: chapter 1

1 Introduction

This annual report provides an overview of the activities conducted and results achieved under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) from April 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018. This report responds to the statutory requirement in Section 342 of the act to provide annual reports to Parliament on the administration and enforcement of the act.

CEPA provides authority for the Government of Canada to take action on a wide range of environmental and health risks—from chemicals to pollution to wastes. For the most part, it functions as an enabling statute, providing a suite of instruments and measures for identifying, assessing and addressing risks.

The general steps followed to address each risk can be organized into a management cycle (see Figure 1): information is collected to understand risks and inform decisions; risks are assessed to determine if action is required; risk management instruments are put in place to reduce or eliminate risks to the environment and/or human health; these instruments may require compliance promotion and enforcement; and information is once again collected to monitor progress and determine if additional action is required. At each stage in the cycle, stakeholders are engaged, the public has the opportunity to be involved, the government works closely with provincial, territorial and Indigenous counterparts, and information is reported to the public.

Figure 1: The CEPA management cycle

Figure 1. The CEPA management cycle
Long description for figure 1

This diagram shows the steps of the CEPA management cycle:

  • risk assessment
  • risk management for toxics, air pollution and greenhouse gases, water quality, and waste
  • compliance promotion and enforcement
  • information gathering, research and monitoring
  • reporting, stakeholder engagement, public rights and inter-jurisdictional relationships

This report provides information on all stages of the CEPA cycle. Section 2 – “Addressing Key Risks” covers information gathering, research and monitoring, risk assessment, and risk management for toxics, air pollution and greenhouse gases, water quality, and waste. Section 3 – “Administration, Public Participation, and Reporting” covers reporting, stakeholder engagement, public rights and inter-jurisdictional relationships. Section 4 – “Compliance Promotion and Enforcement” describes compliance promotion and enforcement activities.

This report also includes the following mandatory information:

  • Section 2 (all subsections) provides examples of the types of research initiatives and their key contributions in the reporting period. Environment and Climate Change Canada and Health Canada scientists published numerous reports, papers, book chapters, articles and manuscripts on subjects related to CEPA.
  • Section 3.1 describes the activities of the National Advisory Committee. There were no other committees established under paragraph 7(1) (a) of CEPA during the reporting period.
  • Section 3.1 also describes the activities under federal-provincial agreements.
  • There were no activities under the international air pollution provisions (Division 6 of Part 7) of CEPA during the reporting period.
  • There were no activities under the international water pollution provisions (Division 7 of Part 7) of CEPA during the reporting period.

The online CEPA Registry is a comprehensive source of information about activities taking place under the act, including proposed and existing policies, guidelines, codes of practice, government notices and orders, agreements, permits, and regulations.

1.1 Review of the act

Section 343 of CEPA requires a parliamentary review of the act every five years after its coming into force. The latest review was triggered in 2015, and began in March 2016 when the House of Commons passed a motion designating the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development (Committee) to undertake a comprehensive review of the provisions and operation of CEPA. Section 343 requires the designated committee to submit a report to Parliament upon completion of its review.

Over the course of its review, the Committee heard from over 50 witnesses and received over 60 separate briefs. Participants included academics, Indigenous groups and First Nations, industry associations, government officials from Environment and Climate Change Canada and Health Canada, and non-governmental organizations. The review focused on several themes such as chemicals management, environmental rights, and enforcement.

On June 15, 2017, the Committee submitted its report, “Healthy Environment, Healthy Canadians, Healthy Economy: Strengthening the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999”, to the House of Commons. The Committee’s 87 recommendations ranged from strengthening authorities for controlling pollution, to incorporating the right to a healthy environment into the act, to improving the enforcement of CEPA, to addressing the environmental protection regulatory gap that exists on most First Nations reserves.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the Committee requested that the government table a response to its report. The government tabled its response (PDF  541 kB) on October 6, 2017 in which it thanked the Committee for its report, and committed to return with a follow-up report by June 2018 on actions taken and to be taken in response to the Committee's recommendations.

The government also began discussions with various stakeholders and partners in relation to certain Committee recommendations. For instance, the government held pre-engagement meetings with some First Nations individuals and organizations to begin exploring their preliminary thoughts on key areas of concern around the environmental regulatory gap on reserves. The government also hosted preliminary engagement sessions with stakeholders concerning other Committee recommendations.

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