Guide to understanding the Canadian Environmental Protection Act: chapter 14

14.1 What are the Principles of Enforcement?

CEPA 1999 provides the authority to carry out inspections and investigations to ensure that regulations made under the Act and the Act itself are followed. Enforcement of CEPA 1999 follows the Compliance and Enforcement Policy established for the Act, which includes the following guiding principles:

  • compliance with CEPA 1999 and its regulations is mandatory;

  • CEPA 1999 enforcement officers will:
    • apply the Act in a manner that is fair, predictable and consistent;

    • use rules, sanctions and processes securely founded in law;

    • administer the Act with an emphasis on prevention of damage to the environment;

    • examine every suspected violation of which they have knowledge, and take action consistent with the Compliance and Enforcement Policy; and

    • encourage Canadians to report CEPA 1999 violations to them.

14.2 What Powers do Enforcement Officers Have?

CEPA 1999 provides the authority to designate persons or classes of persons as enforcement officers. Enforcement officers have a wide range of powers to enforce the Act, including all the powers of a peace officer. Powers include the right to:

  • enter premises;

  • examine any substance, product, fuel, cleaning product or water conditioner;

  • open and examine the contents of any receptacle or package;

  • examine any books, records, electronic data or other documents;

  • take samples;

  • seize evidence;

  • conduct tests or take measurements;

  • stop and detain conveyances such as a vehicle, ship or aircraft for the purpose of conducting an inspection; and

  • use enforcement tools (see Section 14.4).

14.3 What Powers do CEPA Analysts Have?

CEPA 1999 also allows for the designation of individuals as CEPA analysts, who will support the enforcement function. CEPA analysts can be chemists, biologists, engineers, forensic accountants or laboratory personnel. They are entitled to accompany enforcement officers on inspections and they have the power to enter premises, open receptacles, take samples, conduct tests and measurements, and require that documents and data be provided to them. These powers can only be exercised when accompanied by an enforcement officer. Analysts do not have the power to use enforcement tools.

14.4 What are CEPA 1999's Enforcement Tools?

CEPA 1999 enforcement officers have the following enforcement tools at their disposal:

  • warnings, when there is minimal or no threat to the environment or human life or health, to indicate the existence of an alleged violation, so that the alleged violator can take notice and return to compliance;

  • directions to deal with or prevent illegal releases of regulated substances;

  • tickets for offences under the Act where there is minimal or no threat to the environment or human life or health, such as the failure to submit a written report;

  • Ministerial orders requiring remedial measures;

  • detention orders for ships;

  • environmental protection compliance orders to prevent or stop a violation;

  • injunctions to stop or prevent a violation;

  • prosecution under the authority of a Crown prosecutor; and

  • environmental protection alternative measures, as an alternative to prosecution, to come to agreement on measures that the accused must take in order to restore compliance.

14.5 What are CEPA 1999's Penalties for Violations?

The maximum penalties include fines of up to $1 million a day for each day an offence continues, imprisonment for up to three years or both. The Act includes mandatory sentencing criteria for consideration by the courts such as the cost to remedy the damage done to the environment. Violators may also have to pay for clean-up costs or forfeit any profits earned as a result of an offence. Corporate officials can be prosecuted if they authorize, accept or participate in any violation of CEPA 1999 or its regulations.


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