Environmental Protection Act, 1999 and Recognizes a Right to a Healthy Environment
Today, the Government of Canada delivered on its commitment to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) and recognized that Canadians have a right to a healthy environment.
The amendments will enable the Government to respond effectively to new science, which is pointing to harms that were unanticipated in the past and to enable the use of new tools and sources of information that are now available to assess those risks. The framework would detail, among other things, how principles such as environmental justice and non-regression would be considered in implementing the Act, as well as how the right would be balanced with relevant factors, such as social, health, economic and scientific considerations.
The amendments also include requirements on the Ministers of Environment and Climate Change and Health to consider available information regarding vulnerable populations and cumulative effects of substances when assessing risks posed by substances, and to conduct research, studies or monitoring activities to support the Government in protecting Canadians’ right to a healthy environment.
The framework will be developed through robust consultations and can be continuously improved with experience and as views evolve. And they would enable geographically targeted regulations to better enable the protection of communities at risk from local sources of pollution.
Assessing real life exposures
Amendments to CEPA will require that the Government consider available information about the cumulative effects that may result from exposure to the substance in combination with exposure to other substances when conducting and interpreting the results of risk assessments.
Generally, a substance-by-substance approach has been taken when assessing the risks posed by substances – that is, substances are often assessed for risks in isolation. However, in real life we are exposed daily to multiple substances from many different sources often at the same time and over a lifetime.
Recognizing that the science of assessing cumulative effects is still evolving, and data is not always available to support decisions made on this basis, amendments to CEPA will require the Government to consider information that is available with respect to the cumulative effects that may result from exposure to the substance being assessed in combination with other substances.
A Stronger Regime for Substances that are Toxic under CEPA and of the Highest Risk
Amendments to CEPA will create a stronger regime for controlling certain substances found to be toxic under CEPA that pose the highest risk to human health or the environment.
The new regime will retain the risk-based approach in the current Act.