Bill S-5, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act - Summary of Amendments

Bill S-5, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act received Royal Assent on June 13, 2023. The following is intended to provide a plain language summary of key amendments in Bill S-5. For the comprehensive and detailed list of the amendments, please refer to the Bill.


Environmental rights

Right to a healthy environment under CEPA

Advancing Indigenous reconciliation

Strengthening chemicals management

Risk assessment

Plan of chemicals management priorities and public request mechanism

Vulnerable populations, vulnerable environments, and cumulative effects

Animal testing

Public accountability framework (Sections 77 and 91-92)

Transparency, participation and accountability in assessment and management of risks

Timelines for finalizing risk assessment

Timelines for additional planned risk management

Where the Ministers propose to develop more than one risk management instrument in respect of a substance, the Ministers must communicate the timelines for making the additional planned instruments when publishing the first finalized instrument. Any amendments to the statement must be published with reasons, and the Minister must report annually on progress, timelines and any delays in developing additional instruments [clause 22].

Risk management

Pollution prevention (P2) plans

Watch list

Prohibiting toxic substances that pose the highest risk


The unworkable provisions for virtual elimination (VE) of toxic substances that are persistent and bioaccumulative (PBTs) are repealed and replaced with a new regime that remains risk-based but provides that toxic substances of highest risk should be managed by giving priority to prohibition [various clauses].

The list of toxic substances in Schedule 1 is split into two parts to better implement the two-track approach for managing toxic substances under CEPA [clause 58].

Prohibiting PBiTs, CMRs and toxic substances that pose the highest risk

Under the amendments, the Ministers must recommend that PBiTs, CMRs and other toxic substances of highest risk, as defined by regulations made under section 67, be added to the new Part 1 of Schedule 1 [clause 15, clause 21(1)].

When developing risk management instruments in respect of these toxic substances, the Ministers must give priority to the total, partial or conditional prohibition of activities in relation to these substances [clause 29].

In summary, the amendments provide that prohibition would be the starting point for risk management of toxic substances added to Part 1 of Schedule 1, while recognizing that more tailored approaches to managing the risks may be needed depending on the substance’s properties or characteristics. As noted above, partial or conditional prohibitions may be more appropriate in some cases, and indeed necessary in other cases. For example, a partial prohibition could prohibit the non-critical use of a toxic substance in cosmetics, while allowing its critical use in pharmaceuticals, and a conditional prohibition might only allow uses of a toxic substance by an authorized person according to the specific terms and conditions set out in a permit issued by the Minister.

Supporting powers

In support of this new priority to be given to prohibition, amendments add a new provision to section 93 (in other words the main regulation-making authority for toxic substances) that explicitly enables ministerial permitting regimes [clause 33(7)].

Other toxic substances

As noted above, for toxic substances that do not meet the regulatory criteria (that is PBiT, CMR, or otherwise of highest risk), the Ministers will continue to recommend that these other toxic substances be added to Part 2 of Schedule 1, and they will continue to be required to give priority to pollution prevention actions (which may include prohibition) when managing the risks posed by those substances [clause 21(1), clause 29].


The amendments to CEPA will not affect products, such as pesticides, which are specifically regulated under other federal Acts, such as the Pest Control Products Act (PCPA). This is consistent with certain frameworks and provisions under CEPA and the best-placed act approach to chemicals management.

As part of this work, the Government of Canada will consider updating its Toxic Substances Management Policy (TSMP). Any updates to the TSMP will be made in consultation with the relevant departments, agencies and interested persons in order to ensure that it is updated in a manner that accommodates the particularities posed by pesticides, for example.

Products that may release a toxic substance

Best-placed act / Best-placed minister

Renaming Schedule 1

The title of Schedule 1 (in other words “List of Toxic Substances”) is changed to simply “Schedule 1” [various clauses].

Domestic Substances List (DSL)

Power to add Revised In-Commerce List (ICL) substances to the DSL

Power to remove substances no longer in commerce from the DSL

New substances, animate products of biotechnology and significant new activities

Varying significant new activity (SNAc) information

The Minister is able to vary elements of a significant activity notice or order beyond the significant new activity itself, such as the data or information that needs to be submitted for evaluation prior to undertaking the activity, as well as the timelines for submitting that information [clause 24, clause 26, clause 41, clause 43].

Downstream communication of significant new activities (SNAc)

Animate products of biotechnology, including living organisms

Amendments to the Food and Drugs Act (FDA)


Environmental Registry

Powers to compel information

Confidential business information (CBI)

Note on clause references: the references in this document are to the Bill clauses (in other words the bolded paragraphs in the Bill). There are 74 clauses in the Bill. Each clause may modify several different provisions (for example sections, subsections, paragraphs) of the Act.

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