Canadian Environmental Protection Act: compliance and enforcement policy: chapter 3

Key elements

The full title of the legislation is "An act respecting the protection of the environment and of human health in order to contribute to sustainable development", which clearly defines the purpose of the statute. Also, the declaration of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) states that "the protection of the environment is essential to the well-being of Canadians and the primary purpose of this act is to contribute to sustainable development through pollution prevention". The declaration underscores the importance placed by the Government of Canada on prevention of harm to the environment and its commitment to sustainable development.

CEPA has the following elements:

  • authority for the minister to require submission of information on any subject covered by the act
  • authority to control the introduction into Canadian commerce of substances that are new to Canada
  • authority to obtain information on and to require testing of both new substances and substances already existing in Canadian commerce
  • provisions to control all aspects of the life cycle of toxic substances from their development, manufacture or importation, transport, distribution, storage and use, their release into the environment as emissions at various phases of their life cycle, and their ultimate disposal as waste
  • provisions to create guidelines and codes for environmentally sound practices as well as objectives that set desirable levels of environmental quality
  • provisions to control nutrients, such as phosphates, in water conditioners or cleaning products, including detergents, which can interfere with the use of waters by humans, animals, fish or plants
  • provisions to issue permits to control disposal at sea from ships, barges, aircraft and structures (excluding normal discharges from off-shore facilities involved in exploration for, exploitation and processing of seabed mineral resources)
  • authority to regulate fuels and components of fuels
  • authority to control emissions from motors that power automobiles, trucks and other equipment such as lawnmowers, outboard motors and all-terrain vehicle;
  • authority to control the export, import and transit through Canada, as well as shipments within Canada which cross internal provincial or territorial borders, of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material
  • authority to identify, by regulation, specific non-hazardous waste which may be exported, imported or travel through Canada in transit to another destination, where that non-hazardous waste is destined for final disposal, and authority to impose controls on those shipments
  • provisions to control sources of air or water pollution in Canada where a violation of an international agreement would otherwise result, or where the air or water pollution caused in Canada affects another country
  • authority to deal with environmental emergencies, where no other federal act does so in a manner that protects the environment and human health
  • authority to regulate activities of federal departments, boards, agencies and Crown corporations to ensure that those activities have as little as possible negative impact on the environment
  • provisions to regulate federal works, undertakings and to regulate activities on federal land and aboriginal land, where no other federal legislation and/or regulations are in force and, in the opinion of the Governor in Council, provide sufficient protection to the environment and human health
  • authority to sign agreements with a provincial, territorial or aboriginal government or aboriginal people regarding administration of the act
  • authority to sign agreements that recognize that legislation or regulations adopted by a provincial, territorial or aboriginal government are equivalent to CEPA regulations and will apply instead of the CEPA requirements and
  • provisions setting out the powers that may be exercised by the minister, enforcement officers and CEPA analysts in enforcing the legislation

Relationship between the Minister of Environment and the Minister of Health

The Minister of Health has responsibility under the act to provide advice in relation to human health aspects to the Minister of Environment. Among the subjects on which the Minister of Health may give advice are the toxicity of substances, the ability of the substance to become incorporated into and to accumulate in human tissue, and the ability of the substance to cause biological change, as well as the human health effects of emissions and discharges from Canadian sources of international air or international water pollution. In addition, jointly with the Minister of Environment, the Minister of Health recommends regulatory actions for toxic substances to the Governor in Council.

Relationships with other governments under CEPA

(a) Administrative agreements

Protection of the environment is a responsibility shared by all levels of government as well as by industry, organized labour and individuals. For this reason, CEPA gives the Minister of Environment the authority to conclude, with the approval of the Governor in Council, agreements with a provincial, territorial or aboriginal government or aboriginal people concerning the administration of the act.

(b) Equivalency agreements

CEPA authorizes the making of an order by the Governor in Council, upon recommendation of the Minister of Environment, to declare the provisions of the federal regulations not applicable in a province, following the entering into of an equivalency agreement with a provincial, territorial or aboriginal government where the provisions under the laws of this government are equivalent in effect to the CEPA regulations. This means that at the coming into force of the equivalency orders, the federal regulations will no longer apply in the area under the jurisdiction of the province, territory or aboriginal government.

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