Understanding the Canadian Environmental Protection Act

About the act and how the federal government works to prevent pollution and protect the environment and human health.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999


The primary purpose of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) is to contribute to sustainable development through pollution prevention. It provides the legislative basis for a range of federal environmental and health protection programs. These include activities related to:

  • the assessment and management of risks from chemicals, polymers and living organisms
  • programs related to air and water pollution, hazardous waste, air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions
  • ocean disposal and
  • environmental emergencies.

Parliamentary reviews

Section 343 of CEPA 1999 provides for a parliamentary review of the administration of the Act every five years after it has come into force. Parliament conducted a review in 2005 but did not establish or designate a committee to conduct a review in 2010 or 2015.

On June 15, 2017, the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development initiated a study of certain aspects of the act. It submitted its report to the House of Commons and pursuant to Standing Order 109, the Committee requested a response to its report. The government tabled its response on October 6, 2017 and submitted a follow-up report on June 29, 2018 on actions taken and to be taken in response to the Committee's proposals.

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Monitoring, reporting and research

Under Part 3, Section 44 of the Act, the Minister of the Environment is authorized to:

  • establish environmental monitoring stations
  • collect and publish data on environmental quality in Canada
  • conduct research and studies on pollution control and environmental contamination
  • formulate pollution prevention plans
  • publish information on pollution prevention plans and on the quality and state of the environment in Canada.




Scientific research provides valuable insight into the causes, nature and impacts of environment and health risks by helping to:

  • determine the extent of exposure to pollutants
  • monitor changes to the environment over time
  • guide risk assessments
  • develop preventive and control measures
  • provide specialized sampling and analytical techniques used in compliance promotion and enforcement.

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Compliance and enforcement

Environmental Enforcement Act

This omnibus legislation modernized and harmonized the fine regimes and sentencing provisions of nine environmental acts and introduced new enforcement tools. The combined effect of these measures is to help achieve greater compliance with federal environmental legislation.

Administrative monetary penalties under CEPA Parts 7 and 9

The EEA also introduced the Environmental Violations Administrative Monetary Penalties Act (EVAMPA), which sets out the framework for the establishment of a fair and efficient administrative monetary penalties (AMPs) regime to:

  • create a financial disincentive to non-compliance with designated legislative requirements and
  • provide an alternative to other enforcement measures which may not be effective or available in all situations.

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