Terms of Reference for the Chemical Substances Challenge Advisory Panel

1. Purpose

The purpose of the Challenge Advisory Panel (the Panel) is to provide Health Canada and Environment Canada with advice pertaining to the application of precaution and / or weight of evidence in screening assessments for substances that are part of the Chemicals Management Plan's Challenge to Industry and Other Stakeholders.

The Panel's advice will inform the departments' decisions on the application of weight of evidence and the precautionary principle, namely, that a lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to protect the environment and human health.

The Panel is not a peer review mechanism. Peer review is a separate process that will be used in most instances before an item reaches the Panel.

Decision making remains the responsibility of the Minister of Health, the Minister of the Environment, and the Governor in Council.

2. Conduct of Panel Business

The departments will pose to the Panel specific questions regarding the application of precaution and / or weight of evidence in decisions relating to whether a substance or group of substances (a) constitutes, or may constitute, a threat to Canadians' health, the environment or its biological diversity, or the environment on which life depends; (b) insufficient information from which to conclude that a substance is toxic or not; or, (c) sufficient information from which to determine that the substance needs no further action under the Act as per section 76.1.

The departmental representatives will provide context and background information relevant to the questions posed. The Panel will listen to, and may ask questions of, the representatives. Subsequently, the Panel will respond to the question posed.

The Panel will provide a report outlining its advice. The Panel will decide on the format of this advice.

The Panel will strive for consensus. Where consensus cannot be reached, the varying views will be included in the final advice of the Panel through majority and minority briefs.

3. Reporting Structure

The Chemicals Management Plan Directors General in Health Canada and Environment Canada provide the operational decision-making for the Panel. The Safe Environments Directorate of Health Canada provides Secretariat support, responds to questions and provides information at the call of the Chair. Environment Canada Science and Risk Assessment Directorate will support Health Canada as necessary.

The Panel will produce reports of their findings or recommendations after each meeting.

4. Membership

The Panel will consist of ten to twelve individuals. Panel members are expected to objectively consider all information provided by departmental representatives. Individuals are chosen based on their knowledge, expertise, and experience; they will not represent their firms, organizations, professions or affiliations. These members serve on the Panel as knowledgeable individuals in their own right and in the best interest of Canadians. Alternates will not be accepted.

The Deputy Ministers select and appoint the members and Chair from a list of nominees identified by the departments through surveying health and environmental professionals, scientific societies, academia, industry, and civil society. A call for participants will also be placed. Health Canada and Environment Canada staff may not serve as members of the Panel. In selecting members, the Deputy Ministers will be committed to diversity, inclusiveness, and transparency.

All Panel nominees will be screened for perceived, potential or real conflicts of interest in accordance with Health Canada's Conflict of Interest Policy. A summary of any identified affiliations and interests (based on information received through affiliations and interests declaration forms) will be made available to the public. Consent to publish this summary will be a condition of membership on the Panel; members will have an opportunity to review this summary prior to public disclosure. Members are required to inform the Chair if their affiliations and interests change during their tenure.

5. Operations

There will be approximately three or four face-to-face meetings a year. Meetings may be more frequent, at the call of either the Chair or the Deputy Ministers. In setting meeting dates, the Secretariat will make every attempt to accommodate the availability of as many members as possible. A quorum will be set for meeting attendance.

Additional meetings may occur via teleconference call. This would occur in instances where specific issues need to be addressed outside of the schedule of face-to-face meetings.

The Secretariat will develop the agendas for the meetings and will seek approval by the Chair. Members will receive the agenda and all other material as far in advance as possible prior to the meeting.

All members of the Board will have equal status during discussions.

A report on the proceedings will be developed by the members and provided by the Chair no later than 30 days following each meeting. These reports will be posted on the Chemical Substances Website.

6. Tenure

Membership to the Panel will be for three years. The Chair is also appointed for the same three year term.

After 12 months of the first meeting of the Panel, its members, the secretariat and the Deputy Ministers will evaluate the operations of the Panel and its contributions to the Chemical Management Plan's Challenge. The evaluation results will be used to modify its operations to improve the functioning of the Panel or if necessary in deciding to sunset the Panel.

7. Security and Conduct

All Panel members are required to undergo a security clearance to the level of "reliability status" prior to participating in the work of the Panel and to receiving any information from the Government.

All information provided by Government of Canada officials to the Panel members for the purpose of fulfilling their mandate, and identified as confidential by Government officials, must be kept secured and not be disclosed by the members, or any officer, servant or agent of the members, until such time as the information has been officially released for public distribution. Unless officially released for public distribution, any information provided must be returned upon request of the Deputy Ministers, including documents in electronic form.

It is a condition of Panel membership that the members shall conduct themselves in such a manner as to avoid any conflict of interest. Notably, it is a conflict of interest and a breach of confidence for a member to use knowledge or information acquired as a member of the Board for the purpose of gaining a direct or indirect financial benefit or business advantage, or to advise special interest groups, before such knowledge or information is acted on by the Government of Canada or is otherwise disclosed to the interested public by the Government of Canada.

Each member will receive complete information on obligations with respect to conflict of interest and will be required to complete and sign an Affiliations and Interests Disclosure Form and a Confidentiality Agreement prior to receiving any confidential information from the Government.

8. Compensation

Members will be compensated for travel and living expenses according to Treasury Board guidelines. Honoraria will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

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