Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) Reform

Join our efforts along with leading environmental and health groups urging Parliament to prioritize strengthening Bill S-5, introduced February 9, 2022 in the Senate!

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 – both House and Senate – must prioritize the bill, strengthen it and pass it into law before the end of 2022.

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This overarching law – Canada’s cornerstone environmental legislation – governing pollution and toxics is outdated and is inadequate to deal with today’s sources of pollution and toxic chemicals.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 bill is a good step towards CEPA modernization, but it needs strengthening before becoming law.

Key amendments to Bill S-5 include making sure that CEPA contains an unqualified right to a healthy environment, that there are no loopholes for substances of the highest risk to remain a threat to the public, and that there are no delays in assessing the risk of dangerous chemicals, among other improvements.

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 before the end of 2022. 

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

  • Contact the sponsor of the bill in the Senate, Senator Stan Kutcher and encourage him to work to strengthen and pass the bill for referral to the House.
  • 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 2022.
  • 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. (Informed Opinions offers a great selection of resources on how to do this with a list of editors’ emails).
  • Talk to your colleagues, family, friends and neighbours, and ensure they know the importance of a government commitment to reform CEPA this year.
  • Sign this petition hosted by our allies at the David Suzuki Foundation.

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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