Science Advisory Committee on Pest Control Products: Terms of Reference

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As part of the August 4, 2021 Government of Canada announcement to strengthen the capacity and transparency of review processes for pesticides, the government committed to the creation of a new expert panel process to provide advice, as appropriate, prior to certain evidence-based decisions of Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) on pesticides, including on pesticide maximum residue limits (MRLs).

Health Canada established a new Science Advisory Committee on Pest Control Products, which will provide independent scientific expertise to support PMRA in evidence-based decision making on pesticides. PMRA maintains the responsibility and the sole authority to make regulatory decisions on pesticides taking into consideration the advice provided by the Committee.

The Science Advisory Committee on Pest Control Products officially adopted the Terms of Reference on October 20, 2022. The Terms of Reference were updated February, 2023.

1.0 Mandate

The Science Advisory Committee on Pest Control Products will provide advice to Health Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA). PMRA is the branch of Health Canada responsible for regulating pesticides under the authority of the Pest Control Products Act. PMRA's primary mandate is to prevent unacceptable risks to Canadians and the environment from the use of these products.

The Science Advisory Committee on Pest Control Products will provide Health Canada with independent scientific advice to support evidenced-based decision making on pesticide health and environmental risk and value assessments as well as development of risk management options. The Committee will review scientific information pertaining to certain Health Canada pesticide evaluations conducted as part of new applications to register or amend a pesticide product, requests to modify a maximum residue limit (MRL), special reviews or re-evaluations.

The Committee will provide advice in response to specific technical questions from Health Canada. Health Canada will identify which evaluations will require scientific advice and specify the question to the Committee. Not all Health Canada evaluations will require advice from the Committee.

Issues on which Committee advice could be sought include:

Health Canada has the responsibility and sole authority to make decisions with respect to the mandate of this advisory body.

2.0 Reporting structure/governance

Health Canada advisory bodies operate under the Health Canada Policy on External Advisory Bodies. All elements of the policy apply to the Science Advisory Committee on Pest Control Products unless these Terms of Reference specifically state otherwise.

The Committee will report to the Executive Director of PMRA. The Director General of the Policy and Operations Directorate of PMRA will serve as the Executive Secretary to the Committee. Other PMRA Director Generals may take on specific duties to support the Committee as delegated by the Executive Director of PMRA, where appropriate.

PMRA will take into consideration the advice of the Committee as part of evidenced-based decision making on pesticide health and environmental risk and value assessments.

3.0 Membership

Members of the Science Advisory Committee on Pest Control Products were recruited through an open nomination process.

The goal of this process is to ensure that, together, Committee members have a range of knowledge, expertise, and experience to support the mandate of the Committee.

Health Canada will also consider a person's:

The following areas of knowledge, expertise, and experience will be sought to support the Committee:

Health Canada established a selection committee composed of representatives from the Office of the Chief Science Advisor to Health Canada and the Directors General from PMRA.

Health Canada appointed members from among the nominees, following a review by the selection committee. Members will be expected to have broad knowledge of health, environment and value assessment for pesticides.

In addition, the selection committee has created a Community of Specialized Experts from the nominees that will be relied on as additional members to provide expert advice on the specific issues or assessments under consideration (for example, a member with specialization in environmental pesticide risk assessments for aquatic species). The Community of Specialized Experts will be a rolling list that continues to evolve depending on the needs of the Committee.

When deciding on appointments to the Committee, Health Canada will also consider the diversity and inclusiveness of the membership.

In selecting Committee members and the Community of Specialized Experts, the selection committee will consider potential conflict of interest. While there are no limitations on who can submit a nomination, conflict of interest may preclude certain individuals who have a vested interest in the outcome of pesticide regulatory decision(s) from being selected for the Committee.

To preserve the independence of the federal government as a decision maker, federal government employees are not permitted to chair or be a member of the Committee and cannot participate in the formulation of the Committee's advice to Health Canada.

3.1 Selection of the Chairs

The selection committee will appoint two co-chairs from among the members based on an expression of interest in the member's application. The co-chairs will be members of the Science Advisory Committee and participate in the formulation of the Committee’s advice. The Science Advisory Committee co-chair positions may be rotational and staggered for the purposes of continuity, diversity and balance.

3.2 Tenure

Members will be appointed by Health Canada for a minimum term of three years, which may be extended for additional terms based on Health Canada's needs and the members' availability and willingness to continue their membership. Members of the Community of Specialized Experts will be invited to serve for specific topics or charge questions as necessary.

The Secretariat will review membership on a regular basis in consultation with the co-chairs, and will provide advice to the Executive Director of PMRA.

3.3 Resignation process

An individual may withdraw from service on the Committee at any time upon 14 days written notice to the Secretariat. The letter should state the effective date of resignation.

If a Committee member needs to be replaced, the Secretariat will review the original submissions received when the nomination call was sent out to determine if there are any suitable replacements. Should no suitable replacement be found from the original submissions, another nomination call will be sent out, or the Committee and Secretariat will jointly identify a potential replacement and direct contact will be made via the Secretariat.

3.4 End of appointment

Health Canada may end a member's appointment for cause by writing to the member stating the reasons the appointment is being concluded and the effective date in the following circumstances:

Other general reasons that could lead to the end of an appointment include:

4.0 Affiliations and interests

Before being considered for appointment, potential members of the Science Advisory Committee on Pest Control Products are required to complete and return the Affiliations and Interests Declaration Form. This form is used to disclose to the Secretariat any circumstances that may place, or be seen to place the member in a real, perceived, or potential conflict of interest, including financial, intellectual and other relevant interests. PMRA prefers nominees who do not currently have, and have not had for the past two years, direct or indirect affiliations and interests with pesticide product industries and/or organizations that advocate for, or against, pesticide use. The personal information in a completed Affiliations and Interests Declaration Form is protected under the Privacy Act.

Nominees will be screened for potential conflict of interest by the selection committee. Potential conflicts of interest will be determined based on an assessment of a nominee's declaration of interests and affiliations and curriculum vitae. The selection committee will also seek advice from an external conflict of interest expert.

As a condition of appointment, Committee members are required to give Health Canada permission to publish a brief biography and summary of his or her affiliations and interests. Each member will have the opportunity to review and approve the summary for accuracy before publication during the appointment process. The summary will be available through publication on the Government of Canada web site.

In addition to publishing the summary, the co-chairs will also ask members to make a verbal statement of their relevant affiliations and interests at the beginning of every Committee meeting. Members are required to update their declaration in a timely and ongoing manner to reflect any changes.

Members may not use their position on the Committee for their private gain or for the gain of any other person, company, or organization.

5.0 Security clearance

All members and members of the Community of Specialized Experts are required to undergo a security clearance as a condition of participation on the Committee.

Security clearance may require the Committee member to submit fingerprints. A security clearance is valid for ten years.

6.0 Indemnification

All members serve on the Science Advisory Committee on Pest Control Products on a volunteer basis. Health Canada undertakes to provide its volunteer Committee members with protection against civil liability that arises out of their actions as a member, provided the member acts in good faith, within the scope of their volunteer duties, does not act against the interests of the Crown and does not otherwise have available such protection.

In order for an eligible member to receive protection against civil liability, including for legal costs of defending an action as well as any award of damages against them, volunteer members must give prompt notice to Health Canada of any claim, action, suit or proceeding brought against the member, and must obtain Health Canada's consent, in advance, to the legal counsel selected to represent the volunteer member and any associated costs. Health Canada may, at its own expense and discretion, participate in the conduct of the defence of any such claim, action, suit or proceeding, and any negotiations for the settlement of the same. Health Canada will indemnify the member for payment of any settlement, provided that the member has obtained Health Canada's consent to the settlement.

Members act collectively as an advisor to Health Canada with respect to the mandate of their Committee but they are not final decision-makers. Health Canada has the ultimate responsibility and accountability for any decision resulting from the advice received from an external advisory body.

7.0 Roles and responsibilities

7.1 Members

Members of an advisory body have a responsibility to Health Canada and, by extension, to Canadians, to give their best advice to Health Canada.

Members of an advisory body also have a responsibility to:

7.2 Commitment to confidentiality

In order to support their ability to provide well-informed advice, Committee members may receive and discuss information from Health Canada that is confidential in nature.

At the discretion of the Secretariat and in consultation with the Executive Director of PMRA and the co-chairs, meetings of the Committee may be:

Confidential materials and/or topics will not be discussed while invited presenters or observers are in attendance.

Documents that are confidential in nature will be shared exclusively using protective measures that prevent the information from being shared or viewed outside of the Committee's function. For the viewing of confidential test data, an affidavit stating that the member does not intend to use the test data, or make the test data available to others, may be required.

The Secretariat will identify information according to the level to which it is protected under the Policy on Government Security. The Committee co-chairs will ensure that everyone participating in the meeting, telephone discussion, e-mail exchange or in another form of communication has received clear instructions on the confidentiality of the proceedings.

Every person will sign a Confidentiality Agreement before participating in the Committee as a member, specialized expert, or invited presenter. The agreement prohibits the disclosure of any confidential information by any means (including social media) received through participation in the Committee, including information received verbally or in writing through email correspondence, telephone calls, print materials, meeting discussions, etc.

All members are expected to protect and maintain any information divulged during the work of the Committee as confidential. Members must not discuss this information with persons not on the Committee, or divulge information obtained from the work of the Committee, including presentations made to it.

7.3 Co-chairs

In addition to all the responsibilities of a member, the co-chairs will be responsible for the following:

7.4 Media and communications

In accordance with the Policy on Communications and Federal Identity, Health Canada and the co-chairs may designate a spokesperson other than, or in addition to, the co-chairs for media inquiries related to the Committee.

Members of the Committee are able to speak to the media if they choose; however, members are required to inform the Secretariat of any media activities and respect the signed confidentiality agreement that prohibits the disclosure of any confidential information.

Committee members may also direct any media or communication inquiries about the Committee to the Secretariat, who in turn will contact Health Canada's Media Relations team. The Media Relations Officer will follow up with the Committee co-chairs.

7.5 Social media

Social media content developed by a Committee member, which describes work conducted by the Committee, must be reviewed and approved by the Secretariat before being disseminated.

7.6 Secretariat

The Policy and Operations Directorate of PMRA acts as the Secretariat for the Committee. The Secretariat liaises between members and Health Canada, and acts as a resource for members. It also provides leadership and strategic advice in the management of the Committee and works closely with the co-chairs. In addition, the Secretariat:

8.0 Management and administration

8.1 Transparency

Health Canada is committed to transparency as an operating principle. Transparency of the Science Advisory Committee is served by:

Health Canada is subject to the Access to Information Act, which provides Canadian citizens and permanent residents of Canada the right to access information contained in federal government records, subject to certain specific and limited exceptions. The Act serves to enhance the accountability and transparency of federal institutions in order to promote an open and democratic society and to enable public debate on the conduct of those institutions.

Information pertaining to the work of the Science Advisory Committee on Pest Control Products provided to Health Canada, including input from its members in any form (emails, meeting records etc.) may be assessed for public release in the event a request for access to this information is received. Members may consult the Secretariat for additional information on implications of the Access to Information Act.

8.2 Meeting agendas

The Secretariat, in consultation with the co-chairs, sets the meeting agenda, including identifying charge questions for consideration by the Committee.

8.3 Meeting notice and invitations

All meetings are scheduled at the call of the Secretariat, in consultation with the co-chairs. Meetings may be limited to Committee members only or may be opened to Health Canada staff, presenters, and observers by invitation.

The Secretariat sends out the invitations to attend a meeting.

Members generally receive the agenda and briefing material two weeks in advance and presentations five days before a meeting.

8.4 Frequency, type, and location of meetings

The Committee will meet virtually, by default, using secure video conference platforms. Only invited persons may join, participate or listen to the video conferences. Members must make every effort to ensure that a secure line is used and that no one else can see and/or listen to the proceedings unless the person has been previously approved by the Secretariat.

Committee meetings will be held as needed in response to Health Canada charge questions, a minimum of three times per year. It is expected that the committee will provide advice in response to 5-10 charge questions from PMRA per year. The Committee will provide advice in response to charge questions related to evidence-based decisions of PMRA or other science questions that are not related to a specific pesticide evaluation or decision. Not all decisions of the PMRA will be considered by the Science Advisory Committee.

Additional meetings may be held on an as needed basis at the discretion of the Executive Director of PMRA in consultation with the co-chairs and Secretariat.

A meeting cannot be held unless quorum is achieved. Quorum is determined to be at least one-half the number of existing members, including one of the co-chairs (rounded up if uneven number of existing members).

8.5 Travel and expenses

Members and guest speakers will not be compensated for their participation on the Committee.

By default, Committee proceedings will take place virtually. If required, members will be reimbursed for expenses incurred during their work on the Committee such as travel and accommodation, according to the Treasury Board’s Directive on Travel, Hospitality, Conference and Event Expenditures.

8.6 Observers

Portions of meetings of the Committee will be open to observers. The Secretariat and co-chairs, in consultation with the Executive Director of PMRA, will determine which meetings, or portions of meetings, will be open to observers. Observers will not be permitted to provide input on agenda items or participate in the discussions, unless specifically invited to do so by the co-chairs. A list of persons, or organizations, that have requested to observe a meeting will be made available to Committee members.

As part of the opening remarks at a Committee meeting, the co-chairs will:

8.7 Invited presenters

The Secretariat, or the co-chairs, in consultation with the Executive Director of PMRA, may invite individuals with particular expertise or experience to provide input on a specific topic or agenda item. Invited guests may participate in the discussions if the co-chairs specifically invite them to do so, but they do not participate in the formulation of advice.

8.8 Requirements of presenters and observers

Health Canada may require an invited presenter or observer to complete:

8.9 Deliberations and reports

Deliberations during meetings may be held in camera in order to foster open, frank, and free-flowing discussion. Meeting deliberations are not electronically recorded. The co-chairs and the Executive Director of PMRA may grant observer status, for all, or part of, the Committee deliberations to selected individuals.

Only topics that fit within the mandate and charge question of the Committee will be discussed (at the discretion of the PMRA).

In keeping with the Official Languages Act, the Committee members have the right to participate in discussions in the official language of their choice. Information prepared for the Committee will be provided in both official languages. Technical information and scientific reviews shared with the Committee will be provided in the language they were created.

Advice from the Science Advisory Committee on Pest Control Products must be provided to Health Canada in the form of an Advisory Report within 60 days of the meeting (or earlier), unless otherwise agreed upon between the PMRA and the SAC-PCP.

The PMRA will provide the SAC-PCP with an Agency employee to assist the SAC-PCP in drafting their advice and recommendations. In certain situations, the Committee may rely on external professional services to coordinate the development of the Advisory Report. The PMRA will be provided an opportunity to review the draft Advisory Report to provide comments of a factual nature, for the co-chairs’ consideration, before the Report is finalized for submission to the Executive Director of PMRA.

The Advisory Report will outline advice on the charge question(s) issued by Health Canada. The Committee is encouraged to reach a consensus in providing advice whenever possible. When a consensus is not possible, the Advisory Report will reflect the diversity of opinions and/or lack of consensus. The reasons for a lack of consensus, if any, must be clearly identified and substantiated. In cases where there is a real divergence of opinion, the different opinions will be documented, and the number of members supporting each opinion recorded. Individual member positions or remarks will not be attributed in the Advisory Report.

Meeting summaries will be prepared by the Secretariat to summarize the proceedings. Remarks will not be attributed to individuals in the records.

When questions are not related to a specific pesticide evaluation or decision, the agenda and meeting summary, a summary of the Committee’s advice and recommendations as set out in their Advisory Reports, and PMRA’s response to the advice will be posted on Health Canada's website in both official languages. Copies of the full Advisory Reports will be available upon request. In the event that topics discussed are considered confidential (e.g., issues regarding a specific pesticide application), the relevant meeting documents will be handled in accordance with applicable Government of Canada legislation and policies.

8.10 Intellectual property

Health Canada must preserve its ability to freely use (for example publish, reproduce, translate) the work authored by members of the Science Advisory Committee on Pest Control Products in their role as Committee members. As such, members who have contributed to the formulation of written materials in their role on the Committee will be required to assign to the Government of Canada any copyrights they own and to waive any moral rights they have in those materials. Written materials could include any documents, reports etc.

8.11 Review

The Secretariat will review the Committee every three years and will work with the Executive Director of the PMRA and the co-chairs to review the mandate, activities, Terms of Reference, and relevance of the Committee to determine if it has met its objectives and continues to meet the needs of the PMRA. The Executive Director retains the prerogative to disband the Committee or extend it as appropriate.

During the review process, feedback may be sought from members, participants, observers, and others.

The review may be conducted by Health Canada officials or by consultants hired by Health Canada. The review report will be submitted to the Executive Director of PMRA, who may then authorize its distribution to the Committee members.

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