Media Release

House environment committee recommends federal pollution law reforms

Groups applaud committee’s work as unanimous report tabled today

May 02 2007

Ottawa, Ontario – Government and opposition parties came together today to table a unanimous report containing more than 30 recommendations to strengthen the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA).  While the report did not include some of the key recommendations advocated by environmental organizations, Environmental Defence and the Canadian Environmental Law Association welcome the House environment committee’s report as a good first step in strengthening Canada’s backbone national pollution law. “It’s encouraging to see such multi-partisan support for strengthening Canada’s national pollution law,” said Aaron Freeman, Policy Director at Environmental Defence.“We look forward to the government’s response to the report, and hope that a bill to protect the health and environment of Canadians is forthcoming,” said Ramani Nadarajah counsel with the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA). The report calls for more stringent timelines for dealing with toxic substances, making industry responsible for the safety of their chemicals and improving the protection of children’s health under the Act. The committee recommends that CEPA be the main tool for controlling toxic substances in consumer products and highlights the Great Lakes region as a “vulnerable ecosystem” in need of better protection.The committee is proposing ways of fixing the dysfunctional “virtual elimination” tool in the Act and is recommending that substitution with safer materials be a core approach for reducing hazardous chemicals. The report is part of a mandatory five-year review of CEPA, and will require a government response by the end of August. Several recommendations put forward by environmental groups were unfortunately not incorporated into the committee’s report.

  • The report would not improve the transparency of many decisions made under CEPA, particularly for companies requesting approvals for new substances.
  • There would be no requirement to conduct full environmental assessments on so-called “in-commerce” substances, those that were covered by the Food and Drugs Act at the time CEPA was brought into force.
  • While it was highlighted as a vulnerable ecosystem, the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence basin, as Canada’s largest pollution hot spot, deserved more attention in the report. For example, there is no recommendation to ensure CEPA is the implementing mechanism for Canada’s international Great Lakes obligations.

CELA and Environmental Defence will be working hard over the next months to ensure that these issues are addressed in any amendments to CEPA. Environmental Defence protects the environment and human health. We research. We educate. We go to court when we have to. All in order to ensure clean air, safe food and thriving ecosystems. Nationwide. The Canadian Environmental Law Association is a public interest group whose mandate is to protect the environment and conserve natural resources. Funded as a legal aid clinic specializing in environmental law, CELA represents individuals and citizens’ groups before the courts and administrative tribunals on a wide variety of environmental issues. -30- For more information, or to arrange interviews, please contact: Jennifer Foulds, Environmental Defence, (416) 323-9521 ext. 232; (647) 280-9521 (cell) Ramani Nadarajah, Acting Executive Director and Counsel, CELA, (416) 960-2284 ext. 217