Guide to understanding the Canadian Environmental Protection Act: chapter 17

17. Public participation

17.1 What are the opportunities for public input in decision-making?

The role of the public in government decision-making processes is critical, as public trust and broad acceptance of risk management measures are acknowledged to be key for effective risk management implementation.

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) provides a structured predictable approach to risk management decision-making that provides for the input and full consideration of public values and concerns at all stages of the decision-making process. The CEPA 1999 decision-making framework:

Industry and individuals are continually invited to participate in a wide variety of public consultations through notices published in Canada's official parliamentary journal, the Canada Gazette. All consultations are also posted on the CEPA Registry. The primary objective of the Environmental Registry is to communicate various types of initiatives under CEPA 1999 to better allow for public participation in the consultation process and to increase public understanding of the act. The "Public consultations" section of the CEPA Registry highlights all consultation opportunities and provides the background information needed for informed environmental decision-making. The CEPA Registry enables the public to monitor the progress of proposed regulations and other CEPA 1999 instruments.

17.2 What Rights do Citizens Have?

Part 2 of CEPA 1999 includes whistleblower protection that safeguards an individual's identity when reporting violations under this act. This protection is extended to all employees in Canada. CEPA 1999 prohibits the disclosure of the identity of individuals who voluntarily report CEPA 1999 violations. In addition, it is an offence to dismiss, harass or discipline any employee who:

Under CEPA 1999, an individual who is at least 18 years of age and a resident of Canada can request that the Minister conduct an investigation of an alleged offence. Should the Minister fail to conduct an investigation or respond unreasonably and if there has been significant harm to the environment, then the individual has the right to proceed with an "environmental protection action." This is a civil suit and seeks remediation of damage to the environment. The individual is not entitled to any personal damage award under the CEPA 1999 provisions, but can seek reimbursement of their costs in bringing the action.

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