Guide to understanding the Canadian Environmental Protection Act: chapter 2

2. Environmental management in Canada

In Canada, each level of government has powers to protect the environment. This shared nature of environmental jurisdiction makes close cooperation among the federal, provincial, territorial and Aboriginal governments important to Canada's environmental well-being.

Within the federal government, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) is the primary element of the legislative framework for protecting the Canadian environment and human health. A key aspect of CEPA 1999 is the prevention and management of risks posed by toxic and other harmful substances. CEPA 1999 also manages environmental and human health impacts of products of biotechnology, marine pollution, disposal at sea, vehicle, engine and equipment emissions, fuels, hazardous wastes, environmental emergencies and other sources of pollution. The Minister of the Environment is accountable to Parliament for the administration of all of CEPA 1999. Both the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Health jointly administer the task of assessing and managing the risks associated with toxic substances.

Efforts taken under CEPA 1999 are complemented by actions taken under other federal acts administered by the Minister of the Environment. The Fisheries Act, which is administered by the Minister of the Environment on behalf of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, includes provisions to prevent pollution of waters inhabited by fish. Through the Canada Water Act, water resources and their environmental quality are managed. The Minister of the Environment also manages some aspects of wildlife through the Species at Risk Act, the Canada Wildlife Act, the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act. Efforts under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act ensure that the environmental effects of various projects are carefully reviewed before action is taken in order to avoid significant adverse environmental effects.

There are also a number of specialized Acts administered by other federal departments that are useful in protecting the environment. Several acts are used to control, among other things, the introduction of new substances and products of biotechnology into the Canadian market so that the risk to the environment and human health is reduced. These acts include the Pest Control Products Act, the Feeds Act, the Seeds Act, and the Health of Animals Act. In addition to the previously mentioned Fisheries Act and the Canada Water Act, the federal government also has a number of other acts designed to protect our waters. The Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act was introduced to prevent pollution of waters in the Canadian arctic. The Oceans Act includes provisions for the protection of marine areas. Several acts contain provisions that ensure environmentally responsible actions. Examples include the Canada Shipping Act and the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act.

Canada is intricately linked to other countries around the globe economically, environmentally and socially. While global and regional environmental problems impact on Canada's vast geography (for example, ozone depletion, persistent organic pollutants, climate change), Canada also has a responsibility to reduce its contributions to these problems. Canada has a long history of international cooperation across a broad range of environmental issues. Arrangements range from informal sharing of information to the adoption of formal cooperative agreements to achieve common goals. CEPA 1999 provides the means and opportunity to cooperate with international governments to achieve Canada's environmental policy and regulatory goals.

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