The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 is an Act of the Parliament of Canada, whose goal is to contribute to sustainable development through pollution prevention and to protect the environment, human life and health from the risks associated with toxic substances. It covers a diversity of activities that can affect human health and the environment, and acts to address any pollution issues not covered by other federal laws. As such, CEPA 1999 is a "catch all" piece of legislation that ensures potentially toxic substances are not inadvertently exempt from federal oversight as a result of unforeseen legislative loopholes.
CEPA 1999 also recognises the contribution of pollution prevention and the management and control of toxic substances and hazardous waste to reducing threats to Canada's ecosystems and biological diversity.
It acknowledges, for the first time, the need to virtually eliminate the most persistent toxic substances that remain in the environment for extended periods of time before breaking down and bioaccumulative toxic substances that accumulate within living organisms.
Health Canada works in partnership with Environment Canada to assess potentially toxic substances and to develop regulations to control toxic substances.
Section 93 of CEPA provides the authority to the federal government to make regulations to restrict and manage pollution in Canada.
Originally enacted in 1988, CEPA provided a systematic approach to assess and manage chemical substances in the environment that were not addressed under existing programs. After being reviewed in the 1990s, it was replaced by the current legislation that provides new powers for health and environmental protection. It was introduced as Bill C-32 on March 12, 1998, subsequently receiving Royal Assent on September 14, 1999. The new Act came into force on March 31, 2000.
As a Canadian statute, CEPA is unique for including a declaration of "primary purpose" in addition to a preamble.
All new substances must be evaluated for human health and environmental risks before they can be manufactured or imported into Canada. Responsibility for these evaluations is shared between Environment Canada and Health Canada and is administered by the New substances Program, which administers regulations relating to the notification of new substances into the environment.
Existing substances include all 23,000 substances that were in use in Canada prior to the establishment of the New Substances Notification Program, and they are all listed on the Domestic Substances List. CEPA 1999 required systematic screening of these substances, a process that was completed in September 2006, which led to the development of the Chemicals Management Plan.
The 23,000 existing substances on the DSL included 67 microbial strains and 2 complex microbial cultures. These substances were subject to a separate prioritization assessment and accordingly evaluated.
Health Canada and Environment Canada share responsibility for conducting risk assessments of new biotechnology products (including micro-organisms) that are not subject to a pre-manufacture toxicity assessment under other federal legislation. Under CEPA 1999, both naturally occurring and genetically modified organisms are evaluated under the New Substances Notification Regulations (Organisms).
Risk assessment decisions are summarized and posted publicly.
Enforcement activities related to CEPA 1999 can include:warnings regarding the existence of a violation so that the alleged offender can act and return to compliance;
directions to deal with or to prevent illegal releases of regulated substances;
tickets for offences (e.g. failure to submit written reports);
various orders (e.g. prohibition orders, orders to recall illegal substances or products from the marketplace, environmental protection compliance orders to put an immediate stop to illegal activity) to prevent a violation from occurring or require action to be taken;
prosecution under the authority of a Crown prosecutor; and
environmental protection alternative measures.
Fines under the Environmental Enforcement Act (EEA) range from $5,000 to $6,000,000. The EEA applies to offences under CEPA 1999.
CEPA 1999 also allows arrest without warrant, seize or detain anything items related to a CEPA 1999 offence or related evidence, detain or redirect ships suspected of an offence under CEPA 1999, etc. Convitions or indictments under CEPA 1999 can also result in imprisonment up to three years.
Prosecutions under CEPA 1999 are listed on Environment Canada's website.