Guide to understanding the Canadian Environmental Protection Act: chapter 16

16. Information gathering and reporting

The authority to gather information allows for environmental monitoring, research, state of the environment reporting, creating inventories and for the development of objectives, guidelines codes of practice and regulations. Information gathering authorities under Part 3 of the act are limited to what is in the possession of any person or is reasonably accessible to that person. As required under the act, the Minister has issued guidelines respecting the use of these information-gathering powers.

Additional information gathering authorities are included under Part 5 of the act in order to allow the Minister to assess whether or not a substance is toxic or capable of becoming toxic or for assessing whether to control or how to control a substance. In addition, the Minister can require toxicological and other tests if the Ministers of Environment and of Health have reason to suspect that a substance is toxic or capable of becoming toxic.

Both departments are required to distribute information to the public. Publishing information promotes public participation and gives Canadians access to environmental information that relates to their communities. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) requires the Minister of the Environment to distribute information on pollution prevention and periodic reports on the state of the environment. The Minister provides annual reports to Parliament on the administration and enforcement of the Act. The Minister of Health distributes available information about the effects of substances on human health.

The Minister of the Environment must maintain the CEPA Registry. The Registry is a comprehensive on-line source of CEPA-related documents including policies, guidelines, regulations, orders, agreements, notices and permits.

CEPA 1999 also requires that the Minister maintain and publish a National Pollutant Release Inventory. This inventory (searchable by postal code or substance) provides Canadians with facility-specific information regarding on-site releases and off-site transfers of over 300 substances listed on the inventory. Companies that manufacture, process or otherwise use a listed substance at or above the reporting threshold must report their releases or transfers to Environment Canada annually.

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