Follow-up report to the Standing Committee on the Canadian Environmental Protection Act: strategic environmental assessment public statement

A review of the potential environmental impacts of the follow-up report to the Standing Committee report on the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999.

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) is the main law for preventing pollution and protecting the environment and human health. It is the basis for many of the Government’s environmental and health protection programs. These programs address risks from:

  • toxic substances and living organisms
  • air pollutants and greenhouse gases
  • waste and other pollution sources

In March 2016, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development (ENVI Committee) began its review of CEPA. On June 15, 2017, the ENVI Committee released its report, which is called “Healthy Environment, Healthy Canadians, Healthy Economy: Strengthening the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999”, and includes 87 recommendations to improve CEPA.

The Government responded to the ENVI Committee’s report on October 6, 2017.  The Government stated that it supports the Committee’s main message that while CEPA is basically sound, changes are needed to update and improve the Act. It committed to looking into possible changes to CEPA and to producing a follow-up report (Report) on actions taken and to be taken to respond to the Committee’s recommendations. The Report is the subject of this strategic environmental assessment.

The Report describes actions the Government is taking or plans to take in response to each of the Committee recommendations. These actions focus on Government programs, policies or regulations and will have positive or neutral environmental outcomes for Canadians. The Report also notes areas the Government may address when it pursues law reform as soon as possible in future Parliamentary sessions.

Some of the implementation actions described in the Report include improved communication about risk assessment processes with a view to increasing openness, transparency and public participation. The Government is developing a policy framework for considering vulnerable populations  such as children, pregnant women, and the elderly in the assessment and management of chemicals. A strengthened public outreach program will educate a broader range of vulnerable populations on how to protect themselves from harmful contaminants. Ongoing implementation of the Air Quality Management System and continued development and review of Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards for air pollution are highlighted. The Report explains that emissions reporting under the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) framework will be increased for certain sectors and facilities.

The Report commits the Government to undertaking engagement or discussions with partners and stakeholders on three issues highlighted by the Committee that require further study and input to determine appropriate responses:

  • the environmental protection regulatory gap on First Nations reserve lands
  • environmental rights
  • the future of chemicals management

After the Committee published its report last year, the Government began discussions with a wide range of stakeholders about what the focus of the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP) under CEPA should be after 2020. The Report explains that this broad-based engagement will continue through 2018 and 2019 to determine the future direction of chemicals management in Canada beyond 2020. Many of the chemicals management issues raised by the Committee will help inform this engagement, which will examine such issues as:

  • endocrine disrupting chemicals
  • vulnerable populations
  • cumulative risk assessments
  • risk management
  • labelling
  • priority-setting
  • alternatives assessments and informed substitution
  • substances of very high concern

The Report is expected to affect and contribute to 2 goals and targets of the 2016 to 2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) and 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

  • Effective action on climate change FSDS goal: Implementation actions related to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would contribute to the goal and its target of, by 2030, reducing Canada’s total GHG emissions by 30%, relative to 2005 emission levels. These actions would also contribute to Climate Action, SDG 13.
  • Safe and healthy communities FSDS goal: Implementation actions to better inform vulnerable populations and Canadians of chemicals, to improve consumer’s ability to know what is in the products they use, and to continue to improve and better communicate risk assessment and risk management processes would support the goal. Other actions that contribute to this goal include ongoing implementation of federal air quality initiatives, enhanced reporting under the NPRI, and user-friendly enforcement information tools. As well, the proposed actions regarding the CMP would support this goal and its target to address, by 2020, substances identified as priorities under the CMP. These proposed actions to inform and protect Canadians will also support Good Health and Well-being, SDG 3.
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