Environmental enforcement inspections


Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers work to verify whether businesses and individuals are complying with the federal environmental laws that protect Canada’s natural environment, including the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 and the Fisheries Act, and their associated regulations. Under these laws, environmental enforcement officers have the legal authority to carry out inspections at various locations on public or private lands, which include places like retail outlets, mine sites and pulp and paper mills.

Enforcement officers conduct onsite inspections by observing, taking measurements, and gathering other information from an individual or business to help assess whether they are complying with the relevant environmental laws. Officers may also collect samples during an inspection.

The following provides a high-level overview of the environmental enforcement inspection process. Please consult the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 and the Fisheries Act for more information.

Enforcement officers labelling and storing water samples on the bank of a waterway.
Long description

Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers dressed in uniform and life vests are at the edge of a waterway performing duties. One officer is labelling water samples and the other is across from them taking samples and placing them inside a blue storage cooler.

Why officers conduct inspections

There are many reasons why Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers inspect a place of business. It is important to consider that while some inspections may stem from concerns around non-compliance, this is not always the case.

The main reasons for an inspection include:

Note that other federal departments and other levels of government enforce different environmental laws. A business or an individual may be compliant with some laws but not others.

Enforcement officers inspecting a storage tank.
Long description

Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers in uniform are standing on a platform overlooking a storage tank. One officer inspects the storage tank container while the other takes notes.

The environmental enforcement inspection process from start to finish

Before the inspection

Where federal legislation applies, enforcement officers have the authority to arrive unannounced, enter property (other than dwellings), and conduct an inspection without notice. When a dwelling is to be inspected, the officer will seek the consent of the occupant, or if consent is denied or is reasonably expected to be denied, the officer may apply for an inspection warrant.

It is not unusual that an enforcement officer will conduct an unannounced inspection. There are a variety of reasons for this. These reasons may include needing to respond quickly to an urgent situation, or assessing day-to-day compliance.

In some cases, an enforcement officer may choose to schedule an inspection. In this situation, the enforcement officer will usually contact the individual or business to select a date or date range and explain what to expect during the inspection. 

During the inspection

When an enforcement officer arrives at the place to be inspected, they will typically meet the individual in charge of the activity or business, introduce themselves and explain the purpose of the inspection. Then the officer will begin making observations and gathering the information needed to verify compliance with federal environmental laws.

Activities during an inspection may include:

Enforcement officers standing behind a truck labelling water samples.
Long description

Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers dressed in uniform stand beside one another behind the tailgate of a truck. Various water samples sit on the tailgate of the truck and the officers work together to label them.

After the inspection

An enforcement officer will evaluate the information gathered during the inspection to verify compliance with the relevant legislation. If more information is required, the enforcement officer may follow up with a request to the individual or person in charge by phone or in writing (including email), or they may conduct another site visit. 

Enforcement officers do not provide written inspection reports to the individual or business, however they may share findings, such as sample results. In most cases, these results will not be available right away.

If the enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to believe that an individual or business is not compliant with the relevant federal environmental laws and regulations, they will inform the individual or business, verbally or in writing. Timing can vary depending on the situation. An investigation may follow to gather evidence relating to the suspected violation.

If the officer has sufficient evidence of an alleged violation, they can take one of the following enforcement actions:

These responses to alleged violations are outlined in the Compliance and Enforcement Policy for the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 and Compliance and Enforcement Policy for the Fisheries Act.

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