Guide to understanding the Canadian Environmental Protection Act: chapter 18

18. Administrative requirements

18.1 What is the National Advisory Committee?

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) requires the Minister to establish a National Advisory Committee (NAC) composed of one representative for each of the federal Ministers of the Environment and Health, representatives from each province and territory and six representatives of aboriginal governments drawn from across Canada. An aboriginal government means a governing body that, through an agreement with the Government of Canada, is authorized to enact laws respecting the protection of the environment or the registration of vehicles or engines.

The committee advises the Ministers on actions taken under the act, which enables national, cooperative action and avoids duplication in regulatory activity among governments. The committee also serves as the single window into provincial and territorial governments and representatives of aboriginal governments on offers to consult.

The duties of the NAC include advising the federal Ministers of the Environment and Health on:

18.2 What are administrative and equivalency agreements?

CEPA 1999 includes provisions that allow the federal government to enter into administrative agreements with provincial and territorial governments, aboriginal governments as well as an aboriginal people (for example, Band Councils). The act allows the federal government to sign equivalency agreements with provincial, territorial and aboriginal governments.

Administrative agreements are work-sharing arrangements that can cover any matter related to the administration of the act. Such matters can include inspections, investigations, information gathering, monitoring and reporting of collected data. These agreements do not release the federal government from any of its responsibilities under the law, nor do they delegate legislative power from one government to another.

The Act allows the use of equivalency agreements where, by Cabinet decision, a regulation under CEPA 1999 is declared to no longer apply in a province, a territory or an area under the jurisdiction of an aboriginal government that has equivalent requirements. The equivalent regulation does not have to have the same wording as the CEPA 1999 regulation, but have the same effect. The provincial, territorial or aboriginal government must also have a mechanism that allows individuals to request an investigation of alleged violations. Equivalency agreements are possible for CEPA 1999 regulations dealing with toxic substances, international air or international water pollution, environmental emergencies and, for aboriginal governments only, regulations relating to aboriginal land or environmental protection generally and made under Part 9.

CEPA 1999 requires that all proposed equivalency and administrative agreements undergo a 60-day public comment period. Agreements terminate five years after coming into force to ensure regular review and renewal as necessary. Agreements may be terminated at any time with three months notice.

18.3 What is a Board of Review?

CEPA 1999 sets out procedures for establishing and conducting Boards of Review in response to notices of objection filed by members of the public. These provisions are an important component of the act's enhanced provisions for public participation.

Any person may file a notice of objection to a decision, an order or a proposed regulation and request that Board of Review be established. The Ministers can establish a Board of Review to inquire into the nature and extent of the danger posed by the substance that is the subject of the order or the proposed regulation. In addition, the Minister may establish a Board of Review for other instruments (for example, administrative or equivalency agreements) when request for such a Board is filed during the 60-day public comment following publication of the instrument in the Canada Gazette.

18.4 When is the act reviewed?

Every five years, a committee of one or both Houses of Parliament must review the act, as required under CEPA 1999. The committee conducts a comprehensive review of the provisions and operations of the act and makes recommendations regarding any changes to the act or its administration. The review can therefore monitor the effectiveness of the legislation in protecting the environment and human health and preventing pollution.

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