Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) Reform

Join our efforts along with leading environmental and health groups urging Parliament to prioritize passing a strengthened Bill S-5, by early 2023!

We have long called for Canada’s most important environmental law, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), to be strengthened to better protect the environment and human health.

This Parliament must prioritize the bill, strengthen it and pass it into law before the end of 2023. This is our opportunity to get CEPA modernization right!

Background

CEPA (the Canadian Environmental Protection Act) was initially enacted in 1988. It was last updated in 1999.

This overarching law – Canada’s cornerstone environmental legislation – governing pollution and toxics is outdated and is inadequate to deal with today’s sources of pollution and toxic chemicals. 

Today’s environmental health realities must be reflected in legislation.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development’s 2017 review of CEPA led to a list of 87 recommendations to strengthen CEPA. Those, and other recommendations, are still not law.

The previous government’s introduction of Bill C-28 was moving us in the right direction. The first reading of Bill C-28, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act, was hailed as an essential first step. Health and environmental groups welcomed the introduction of Bill C-28!

But the bill died on the order paper with the election call.

The Liberal government election platform included a commitment to “Pass a strengthened Canadian Environmental Protection Act to protect everyone, including people most vulnerable to harm from toxic substances and those living in communities where exposure is high.”

On Feburary 9, 2022, Bill S-5, which was previously introduced in the House of Commons, as Bill C-28, in the last session of Parliament but was never debated, was introduced in the Senate.

The Senate passed amendments to strengthen the bill in June. As important as these improvements were, some key issues remain to be addressed.

The bill is a good step towards CEPA modernization, but it needs strengthening before becoming law.

We are looking for improvements in two main areas of the bill:

  1. The Right to a Healthy Environment 

Bill S-5 introduces the right to a healthy environment for the first time in federal legislation, which includes the principles of non-regression and intergenerational equity. This important advance should be reinforced with stronger requirements for the implementation framework including air quality standards and the assessment of toxic substances.

  1. Amendments to modernize Canada’s chemical management regulations 

Updates should include: the right to know the chemical ingredients through product labelling; updating chemical assessments and risk management plans; public requests for assessment or reassessment of a chemical or class of chemicals; timeline accountability for chemical assessments; safer substitution of toxic chemicals; and expanding public access to data by addressing overuse of the Confidential Business Information exception (CBI).

A coalition of environmental and health organizations outlined in a briefing note some of what needs to be improved to provide better health and environmental protections.

CAPE is committed to and ready to work with the government to implement the strongest measures for environmental health protection and justice in Canada in our aim for healthy people and a healthy planet.

Now, we are asking for your help to see a strengthened CEPA passed into law!

Taking Action for a stronger CEPA

There are many steps yet to come before a bill can become law. So we need to press for prioritization of amendments for a stronger bill to reform the Canadian Environmental Protection Act and work to pass this bill by early 2023. 

There are several ways you can press for meaningful CEPA reform and get the message out to decision-makers:

  • Let the Prime Minister know you would like to see the bill strengthened and prioritized when it is referred to the House so it can become law in 2023.
  • Write to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Steven Guilbeault and Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos and tell them that for better environmental and human health a strengthened Bill S-5 is needed now.
  • Contact your MP with a message asking them to make CEPA reform a priority.
  • Meet directly with your MP and give them the message that CEPA reform is critical now.
  • Write an op-ed or send a letter to the editor of your local paper highlighting the importance of CEPA reform. Click here for a Letter to the Editor How-To.
  • Talk to your colleagues, family, friends and neighbours, and ensure they know the importance of a government commitment to reform CEPA in this session of Parliament.
  • Take action here: https://act.cape.ca/newmode_bill_s-5_en

Strong legal protections can begin to address the health realities of today and prevent ill health and disease in the future. 

Bill S-5 to reform CEPA is a good step forward in advancing the right to a healthy environment; necessary amendments will further strengthen it.

Health professionals have a vital role in writing the CEPA story’s happy ending, using scientific knowledge and experience!

If you would like more information or want support for your efforts to make CEPA reform a priority, please get in touch with Jane McArthur, Toxics Program Director, at jane@cape.ca.

 

Additional CAPE Resources on CEPA and Bill S-5:

Government Briefings and Communications:

Media and Public Engagement:

Campaigns

Resources

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