Media Release

Auditor’s report highlights serious problems with enforcement of toxic chemicals regulations

Dec 13 2011

Toronto – In a report released today, Canada’s federal environmental watchdog find major gaps and shortcomings in the federal enforcement regime for toxic chemicals. Scott Vaughan, the Commissioner on Environment and Sustainable Development, in his December 2011 report looks at Environment Canada’s management program for the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA).

“Mr. Vaughan’s findings are very troubling and underscore concerns we have had for many years,” stated Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA).

“His report indicates that Environment Canada is not implementing its own Compliance and Enforcement Policy. For example, there is a statutory obligation to apply a risk-based approach to ensure that the most dangerous substances are addressed. However, enforcement of key regulations is not happening, according to the Commissioner, because of the lack of training and key information gathering. Training of enforcement staff, and information gathering about the use of these toxic chemicals are among the most fundamental aspects of enforcement. It is shocking to me that these are among the reasons for lack of enforcement.” stated Ms. McClenaghan.

CEPA is Canada’s most important law for protecting the environment and human health from toxic chemicals. Once a chemical has been evaluated (often a very lengthy process) a decision is made about whether it is “toxic” as defined under CEPA. If a chemical, or group of chemicals, is found to be “CEPA-toxic,” various management options are considered up to, but not necessarily including, regulation.

“There are well over 23,000 chemicals in Canadian commerce, but only slightly more than 100 have been added to the CEPA list of toxic substances. Therefore, there should be a comprehensive and robust compliance and enforcement regime in place to control this small number of high priority toxic substances to ensure protection of human health and the environment. The Commissioner’s report suggests there is not. This should be a concern to every one in Canada,” stated Joe Castrilli, CELA Counsel.

“The Commissioner makes important recommendations, some addressing longstanding concerns about CEPA enforcement. The federal government should implement them immediately,” noted Castrilli.

For more information:
Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director 416-662-8341
Joe Castrilli, Counsel 416-960-2284 ext. 218