Frequently Asked Questions on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s Compliance Promotion and Enforcement Program

Why has the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency established a compliance promotion and enforcement program?

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012) includes provisions not found in the former Canadian Environmental Assessment Act that relate to the enforcement of the Act. These provisions, namely sections 89 to 102 of CEAA 2012, provide, among other things, for designation of CEAA 2012 enforcement officers, inspection powers for those officers, tools to respond to alleged contraventions, and penalties upon conviction for an offence under the Act. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is responsible for promoting, monitoring and facilitating compliance with CEAA 2012 and has established the program to meet these responsibilities.

Does the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s compliance promotion and enforcement program apply to all environmental assessments conducted under CEAA 2012?

The Agency enforces CEAA 2012, its regulations and any decision statements issued by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change under the Act for designated projects for which the Agency is a responsible authority. The Agency’s program includes both compliance promotion and enforcement activities to foster compliance with CEAA 2012 and avoid adverse environmental effects.

What is compliance and enforcement?

Compliance means a state of conformity with CEAA 2012. Enforcement means actions or activities to verify that a proponent is in compliance with the requirements of CEAA 2012, to compel compliance or respond to alleged or suspected contraventions. Enforcement includes inspections, investigations and enforcement actions, such as written warnings, directions and prohibitions under section 90 of CEAA 2012, orders under section 94 of CEAA 2012, injunctions under section 96 of CEAA 2012 and prosecution.

Who is responsible for ensuring that proponents comply with decision statements?

Proponents are responsible for complying with a decision statement, and if the project is allowed to proceed, any conditions included in the statement. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is responsible for promoting, monitoring and facilitating compliance with CEAA 2012. Enforcement officers designated under section 89 of CEAA 2012 inspect and verify compliance with CEAA 2012, including the conditions set out in decision statements issued by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change.

What is a decision statement issued by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change?

A decision statement is a document issued by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change under section 54 of CEAA 2012 to the proponent of a designated project. It informs the proponent of the decisions about the significance of the environmental effects. There are two decisions: one regarding the environmental effects under subsection 5(1) of CEAA 2012 and a second regarding the environmental effects under subsection 5(2) of CEAA 2012.

If the decision is that there are no significant adverse environmental effects, or if there are significant adverse environmental effects that have been justified in the circumstances by the Governor in Council (Cabinet), then the decision statement contains conditions with which the proponent must comply and the designated project may proceed under CEAA 2012.

What are the conditions in a decision statement?

In accordance with section 53 of CEAA 2012, the decision statement must include conditions related to the mitigation measures that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change took into account when making a determination about the significance of the environmental effects of the designated project, and to the implementation of a follow-up program. The decision statement also includes other requirements with which the proponent must comply.

Where can I obtain information about the implementation of conditions included in a decision statement?

Information regarding the implementation of conditions in a decision statement may be found on a proponent’s website or by searching for the designated project on the Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry Internet Site.

Other than the decision statements issued by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, are there other obligations with which proponents must comply under CEAA 2012?

CEAA 2012 includes both obligations and prohibitions with which proponents must comply.

Obligations are actions proponents must undertake. They are found in the following provisions:

  • Subsection 8(1) – When the Agency is the responsible authority, the proponent of a designated project must submit a project description to the Agency.
  • Subsection 14(3) – If the Minister of Environment and Climate Change so requires, a person must provide information in relation to a physical activity that the Minister and Climate Change has designated by order under subsection 14(2).
  • Subsection 23(2), 39, 44(2) and 47(2) – These provisions allow the Agency, a review panel or the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, as the case may be, to require that a person including the proponent collect information and/or conduct a study when there is insufficient information.
  • Subsection 90(3) – The owner or person in charge of a place, and every person in a place, being inspected by a CEAA 2012 enforcement officer designated under CEAA 2012 must give all reasonable assistance to enable the CEAA 2012 enforcement officer to exercise a power or perform a duty or function under section 90, and must provide any documents, data or information that are reasonably required for that purpose.
  • Subsection 94(3) – Any person subject to an order issued under subsection 94(1) must comply with the order.

Prohibitions are actions that proponents must not undertake. They are found in the following provisions:

  • Paragraph 6(a) – The proponent must not do any act or thing in relation to a designated project or any part of the project, that may cause an environmental effect (as defined in subsection 5(1) of CEAA 2012), unless the Agency has decided that no environmental assessment is required.
  • Paragraph 6(b) – The proponent must not carry out any part of the project that may cause an environmental effect (as defined in subsection 5(1) of CEAA 2012), unless a decision statement has been issued and the proponent complies with its conditions.
  • Section 97 – No person, including the proponent, may obstruct or hinder a CEAA 2012 enforcement officer from exercising their powers or performing their duties and functions under the Act.
  • Section 98 – No person, including the proponent, may knowingly make a false or misleading statement, or knowingly provide false or misleading information in connection with any matter under CEAA 2012 to any person who is exercising their powers or performing their duties and functions under the Act.

What is an enforcement action?

Enforcement action is a response to an alleged or suspected contravention of CEAA 2012 to compel compliance, deter future non-compliance and prevent harm. Enforcement actions include written warnings, orders, directions and prohibitions under section 90 of CEAA 2012, orders under section 94 of CEAA 2012, injunctions and prosecution.

Who is responsible for enforcement actions?

CEAA 2012 allows the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to designate persons or classes of persons for the purposes of administration and enforcement of the Act. These designated persons referred to as CEAA 2012 enforcement officers undertake enforcement actions.

What powers do CEAA 2012 enforcement officers have?

The powers of enforcement officers are found in sections 90 to 95 of CEAA 2012. CEAA 2012 enforcement officers can carry out inspections in relation to designated projects to verify proponents’ compliance with CEAA 2012 and with decision statements. If CEAA 2012 enforcement officers discover alleged non-compliance, they can investigate in accordance with investigative powers found in the Criminal Code. In the case of alleged non-compliance they can use a variety of tools to bring a proponent back into compliance, such as written warnings and orders.

How are enforcement actions undertaken?

CEAA 2012 enforcement officers verify compliance and respond to suspected contraventions. They also carry out investigations to gather evidence in order to confirm if there is, was or continues to be a contravention. If the contravention is confirmed, the CEAA 2012 enforcement officer determines the best path forward for bringing the proponent back into compliance as soon as possible and for avoiding harm to the environment.

What are the offences and penalties for contravening CEAA 2012?

Offences and penalties set out in CEAA 2012 include fines for persons who are found guilty of an offence. Contraventions of CEAA 2012 can result in fines as high as $400,000. The provisions related to prohibitions, offences and fines are found in sections 97 to 100 of CEAA 2012. Pursuant to subsection 99(4) of CEAA 2012, if an offence is committed or continued for more than one day, each day constitutes a separate offence.

If I suspect there has been a contravention of CEAA 2012 or a decision statement issued by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, what should I do?

The Agency encourages the reporting of suspected contraventions. If you have a reason to believe that there has been a contravention of CEAA 2012 or a decision statement issued to a proponent of a designated project, you may report it to the Agency at iaac.compliance-conformite.aeic@canada.ca.

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