Follow-up report to the Standing Committee on the Canadian Environmental Protection Act: chapter 2

2 Engagement on changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999

In order to support its commitment to advance reforms to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) in future parliamentary sessions, the government will convene a multi-stakeholder process to seek further input on reforms, and will use the committee’s recommendations to inform its work to update this important statute.

Some of the committee’s law reform recommendations would represent a significant shift in how Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), Health Canada (HC) and other federal departments conduct their programs and activities, and still require considerable examination by a wide range of interested parties.

The government has already started a broad stakeholder engagement process to address many of the issues that the committee raised concerning future directions and approaches to chemicals management under CEPA. After the committee published its report last year, ECCC and HC began discussions with a wide range of chemicals stakeholders about what the focus of the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP) under CEPA should be after 2020 (CMP post-2020 process).

In May and November 2017, the government used the CMP multi-stakeholder workshops as an opportunity to reflect on what has worked well and what could be improved upon, and to discuss emerging trends and issues that should be addressed in the future. Earlier this year, the government held several reform-focused sessions with partners and stakeholders to discuss proposals to amend CEPA, largely in line with the emerging issues being discussed within the CMP post-2020 process. The 2018 meetings of the CMP Science Committee and the CMP Stakeholder Advisory Council were also focused on some of the important issues raised in the committee’s report, with a particular emphasis on endocrine disruption. The CMP program also held its biannual multi-stakeholder workshop in May 2018, where CMP post-2020 was again the major focus of discussions.

The government will continue to work with stakeholders through the CMP post-2020 process to consider the important chemicals management issues highlighted by the committee, including endocrine disrupting chemicals, vulnerable populations, cumulative risk assessments, risk management, labelling, priority-setting, alternatives assessments and informed substitution, and substances of very high concern. Chapter 3 of this report provides more detail on the CMP post-2020 process.

The committee’s recommendations related to codifying a right to a clean environment raise some fundamental issues regarding the role of laws in expressing social values, and the degree to which general statements of values can, or should guide and constrain ongoing legislative, regulatory and policy decisions. The committee characterized environmental rights as having three dimensions: i) a substantive right to environmental quality; ii) the obligation of non-discrimination in environmental protection (environmental justice); and iii) procedural rights. Chapter 5 of this report looks at each of these dimensions and indicates those areas which will be the focus of continued engagement. The committee’s report provides a helpful starting point for continued discussions on these topics, which will contribute to the government’s commitment to update CEPA in future parliamentary sessions.

With respect to the environmental protection regulatory gap on First Nations reserves, engagement with Indigenous Peoples is essential. The government commits to returning to the committee after appropriate engagement with a plan on addressing this gap, including possible improvements to authorities in CEPA that may be used to enhance environmental protection on First Nations reserve lands. Chapter 6 of this report provides more information on the government’s commitment to engage on the regulatory gap.

Industry and civil society have a strong record of close collaboration in providing advice both on the ongoing implementation of programs under CEPA and in considering possible legislative reforms. This collaboration reflects the valuable role CEPA plays in promoting a clean and healthy Canada. The government encourages stakeholders and partners to continue this collaboration and is committed to supporting that process as it works to improve the implementation of the act and towards updating the act in future parliamentary sessions.

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