Environmental emergencies: program overview

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC) Environmental Emergencies Program (EEP) was created in 1973 following a major oil spill in Nova Scotia. This incident highlighted the need for timely environmental expertise to determine how to best respond to an environmental emergency.  

ECCC administers laws and regulations that organizations and individuals must comply with to ensure the environment is protected. The department also protects Canadians and their environment by providing science-based advice to better prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from environmental emergencies.

The Program is delivered by a range of departmental experts: meteorologists, biologists, water scientists, environmental engineers and enforcement officials. Together we offer trusted, expert advice to assist agencies, responsible parties and industry in making environmentally sound decisions before, during and after an environmental emergency.

ECCC's environmental emergencies program carries out activities in:


An environmental emergency is an uncontrolled or unexpected incident involving the actual or likely release of a polluting substance into the environment.

What legislation is relevant to environmental emergencies

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC) main regulatory responsibilities are defined in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) and the Fisheries Act. Specifically, these Acts require those responsible for an emergency to notify the government of an actual or potential pollution release and to take appropriate response measures. ECCC has the authority to assess these measures and, if necessary, require that additional actions are taken to ensure the environment and Canadians are protected. The Emergency Management Act, Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 and Species at Risk Act are other examples of key Acts that govern ECCC’s role in environmental emergencies.

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