Compliance and enforcement policy for the Canadian Environmental Protection Act: chapter 3

Key Elements

The full title of the legislation is "An Act respecting the protection of the environment and of human health in order to contribute to sustainable development", which clearly defines the purpose of the statute. Also, the Declaration of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 states that "the protection of the environment is essential to the well-being of Canadians and the primary purpose of this Act is to contribute to sustainable development through pollution prevention". The Declaration underscores the importance placed by the Government of Canada on prevention of harm to the environment and its commitment to sustainable development.

Key Elements

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 has the following elements:

  • authority for the Minister to require submission of information on any subject covered by the Act;
  • authority to control the introduction into Canadian commerce of substances that are new to Canada;
  • authority to obtain information on and to require testing of both new substances and substances already existing in Canadian commerce;
  • provisions to control all aspects of the life cycle of toxic substances from their development, manufacture or importation, transport, distribution, storage and use, their release into the environment as emissions at various phases of their life cycle, and their ultimate disposal as waste;
  • provisions to create guidelines and codes for environmentally sound practices as well as objectives that set desirable levels of environmental quality;
  • provisions to control nutrients, such as phosphates, in water conditioners or cleaning products, including detergents, which can interfere with the use of waters by humans, animals, fish or plants;
  • provisions to issue permits to control disposal at sea from ships, barges, aircraft and structures (excluding normal discharges from off-shore facilities involved in exploration for, exploitation and processing of seabed mineral resources);
  • authority to regulate fuels and components of fuels;
  • authority to control emissions from motors that power automobiles, trucks and other equipment such as lawnmowers, outboard motors and all-terrain vehicles;
  • authority to control the export, import and transit through Canada, as well as shipments within Canada which cross internal provincial or territorial borders, of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable material;
  • authority to identify, by regulation, specific non-hazardous waste which may be exported, imported or travel through Canada in transit to another destination, where that non-hazardous waste is destined for final disposal, and authority to impose controls on those shipments;
  • provisions to control sources of air or water pollution in Canada where a violation of an international agreement would otherwise result, or where the air or water pollution caused in Canada affects another country;
  • authority to deal with environmental emergencies, where no other federal Act does so in a manner that protects the environment and human health;
  • authority to regulate activities of federal departments, boards, agencies and Crown corporations to ensure that those activities have as little as possible negative impact on the environment;
  • provisions to regulate federal works, undertakings and to regulate activities on federal land and aboriginal land, where no other federal legislation and/or regulations are in force and, in the opinion of the Governor in Council, provide sufficient protection to the environment and human health;
  • authority to sign agreements with a provincial, territorial or aboriginal government or aboriginal people regarding administration of the Act;
  • authority to sign agreements that recognize that legislation or regulations adopted by a provincial, territorial or aboriginal government are equivalent to CEPA regulations and will apply instead of the CEPA requirements; and
  • provisions setting out the powers that may be exercised by the Minister, enforcement officers and CEPA analysts in enforcing the legislation.

Relationship between the Minister of Environment and the Minister of Health

The Minister of Health has responsibility under the Act to provide advice in relation to human health aspects to the Minister of Environment. Among the subjects on which the Minister of Health may give advice are the toxicity of substances, the ability of the substance to become incorporated into and to accumulate in human tissue, and the ability of the substance to cause biological change, as well as the human health effects of emissions and discharges from Canadian sources of international air or international water pollution. In addition, jointly with the Minister of Environment, the Minister of Health recommends regulatory actions for toxic substances to the Governor in Council.

(a) Administrative Agreements

Protection of the environment is a responsibility shared by all levels of government as well as by industry, organized labour and individuals. For this reason, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 gives the Minister of Environment the authority to conclude, with the approval of the Governor in Council, agreements with a provincial, territorial or aboriginal government or aboriginal people concerning the administration of the Act.

(b) Equivalency Agreements

In addition, the legislation allows the Governor in Council, upon recommendation of the Minister of Environment, to make an order recognizing that requirements imposed by a provincial, territorial or aboriginal government are equivalent to regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. This means that the province, territory or aboriginal government will apply its equivalent requirements, rather than the regulation made under the federal Act.

The areas of CEPA, 1999 which are open to an order by the Governor in Council declaring the requirements of another government to be equivalent to those developed under CEPA, 1999 are:

  • regulations dealing with toxic substances;
  • regulations dealing with Canadian sources of international air or international water pollution;
  • regulations dealing with environmental emergencies; and
  • regulations respecting the practices of federal departments, boards, agencies, commissions, federal Crown corporations, federal works or undertakings, or respecting federal land or aboriginal land and persons on that land or whose activities involve that land.

For the recommendation to the Governor in Council, specific criteria will be used to determine equivalency. The factors to establish equivalency will include:

  • equal level of control as sanctioned by law;
  • comparable compliance measurement techniques;
  • comparable penalties; and
  • comparable rights for an individual, resident in Canada, to require investigation of a suspected offence and to receive a report of the findings.

In the annual report to Parliament on administration of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, the Minister is required to include a specific accounting of activities conducted under equivalency agreements with provincial, territorial and aboriginal governments. The same requirement is imposed on the Minister for activities that take place under administrative agreements with provincial, territorial and aboriginal governments and those concluded with aboriginal people for implementation of the Act. Agreements will ensure that provinces, territories, aboriginal governments or aboriginal people enforcing all or any part of the statute, do so in a manner consistent with this policy. In addition, the agreements will spell out procedures for measuring performance.

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