Guide to understanding the Canadian Environmental Protection Act: chapter 4

4.  Environmental protection management process

The environmental management process used in the implementation of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) centres around four key activities (see Figure 1)

Each stage of the process includes information exchange in the form of cooperation with other governments, public participation and reporting on progress.

Figure 1: Environmental protection management process

Figure 1: Environmental protection management process

Long description of figure 1

The environmental management process consists of four interconnected activities. Research and monitoring, along with risk assessment, work to identify risks to the environment and human health. These risks are reduced through risk management activities. To ensure that the risk management measures are adhered to, follow-up to the risk management phase consists of compliance promotion and enforcement activities. Further research and monitoring activities can indicate whether or not the risk management measure has been effective in reducing the risk. All of these activities are supported through public participation, reporting and intergovernmental cooperation.

Research and monitoring: Scientific research and development are used to evaluate the impact of substances on the environment and human health, determine the extent of exposure to contaminants, guide the development of preventive and control measures by identifying pollution prevention and technology solutions, and provide specialized sampling and analytical techniques used in compliance promotion and enforcement. Monitoring changes in the environment and in human health trends is essential for assessing the impact of toxic substances and the effectiveness of measures meant to minimize environmental damage and real and potential threats to human life. Information gathering on the use and release of substances informs understanding and decision making by governments, industry and the public.

Risk assessment: Substance risk assessments are based on sound science, which supports a better understanding of their impacts and exposure to the environment and human health. The assessments incorporate the precautionary principle and a weight of evidence approach. Risk assessment also helps to identify the sources of pollution that pose the greatest risk to the environment and human health. While risk assessment is the prelude to, and informs, the risk management stage for all programs under CEPA 1999, the act provides explicit direction on the assessment of toxic substances and the assessment of wastes and other matter that are destined for disposal at sea.

Risk management: Based on the scientific information available, strategies are developed to determine how best to manage toxic and other substances and what kinds of actions are required. Social, economic and technology factors are integral to risk management decision making, including considering which risk management instruments are the most cost-effective. While CEPA 1999 provides for certain instruments developed under the act such as regulations, pollution prevention plans, guidelines and codes of practice, other tools such as voluntary agreements, other Acts of Parliament or provincial/territorial actions may also be suitable to manage particular risks posed by a substance.

Compliance promotion and enforcement: Compliance promotion and enforcement of CEPA 1999 and its regulations are necessary to achieve the highest level of environmental quality for all Canadians. Providing public opportunities for input to the creation of regulations and compliance promotion programs should result in a high rate of compliance. In cases of non-compliance, CEPA 1999 enforcement officers will investigate. If an alleged violation is confirmed, action will be taken using one or more of the enforcement tools available under CEPA 1999. Information gathered during the compliance promotion and enforcement stage helps to evaluate the effectiveness of controls and monitoring.

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