Canada Consumer Product Safety Act

An Act respecting the safety of consumer products

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.

Sponsor

Leona Aglukkaq  Conservative

Status

Considering amendments (House), as of Dec. 15, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment modernizes the regulatory regime for consumer products in Canada. It creates prohibitions with respect to the manufacturing, importing, selling, advertising, packaging and labelling of consumer products, including those that are a danger to human health or safety. In addition, it establishes certain measures that will make it easier to identify whether a consumer product is a danger to human health or safety and, if so, to more effectively prevent or address the danger. It also creates application and enforcement mechanisms. This enactment also makes consequential amendments to the Hazardous Products Act.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2009 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, it would have been nice to have those amendments in there, absolutely. I think the member is correct in saying that they were not considered perhaps carefully enough, particularly the tobacco-related ones.

He began his question by talking about labelling. I have always found it humorous when I see a label on a children's toy that says “100% unknown fibres”. That does not seem to make a whole lot of sense to me.

However, there are things that we can still fix. Part of our job here in this House is to ensure that we can come forward with the best bill possible. As we strive for that, we will be looking at this again, probably some years down the road, to make improvements once it has been in place for a while.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2009 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, one of the big concerns that we had in the NDP caucus regarding the bill was the enforcement of the bill. We see that as being not really adequate. Because of the immensity and the enormity of the job, we are not going to be able to hire the number of people that we should to enforce this act.

In addition, one of the Liberal members mentioned this morning that we will not see the regulations, which are going to be a very important part of this process, for some time to come.

So, when we look at a combination of the regulation and the regulation development, and the whole issue of enforcement and the fact that we are talking about a government that really has never been very strong on consumer issues, we have to be concerned and very vigilant regarding this legislation and this government, in terms of the future.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2009 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right. Enforcement has always been a problem. I have always thought that there is no sense having a law or a regulation if it is not going to be enforced. This bill, as it comes back, is lacking somewhat in that regard. However, I believe that if there is a government will to ensure that consumer products remain safe for everyone, in particular for children, the government will do the right thing and ensure that there are enough people to police them.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2009 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, on enforcement, the first offence would be a fine of not more than $250,000 or an imprisonment term of no more than six months; the second one could be a fine of more than $5 million or imprisonment of not more than two years. These kinds of fines are good. However, without--

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2009 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-6, the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act.

I support this legislation, but I would caution against any description of this as being the definitive approach to consumer product safety. The bill takes a relatively narrow slice of the challenge and addresses that in an acceptable way. For that reason, I see it as a step forward, but certainly a lot of terrain remains to be covered.

I want to comment on the co-operative approach taken by the Standing Committee on Health. Members from all parties essentially had the same objective, which was to increase protection for Canadian consumers in terms of both the design of and the elements in manufactured products.

Bill C-6 would modernize the regulatory framework. One witness at committee commented that this could have been done through an amendment to the Hazardous Products Act, but the government decided to provide new legislation in response to Canadians' concerns about the various recalls and unsafe products that were coming into the country and being sold over the last couple of years.

The bill operates on a premise that is considered to be a general prohibition. It takes more of the responsibility for ensuring product safety off the government's lap and places it on the private sector's lap. There is a general prohibition in terms of the manufacturing, import, advertisement and sale of consumer products that constitute a danger to human health or safety.

That is a different direction from having lists of dangerous compounds or dangers that the government identifies. This legislation primarily puts that responsibility on the private sector. There is a lot of debate about that, and there are some pros and cons to that approach.

While the bill would add more of the ongoing monitoring and safety assurance responsibilities to the private sector and reduce the burden on government, it increases the level of compliance and enforcement and creates a tracing mechanism so that government can ensure that the private sector is doing its job. It would allow the government to monitor that more easily.

The legislation also proposes to increase fines and penalties, which is part of the compliance and enforcement strengthening.

A key function of the legislation would be to enable government to have mandatory recall where there is a problem, rather than that being a voluntary act on the part of the private sector as it was in the past. Having this provision for a mandatory recall was supported by all witnesses at committee and is a strength of the bill.

The bill is not as comprehensive as some committee members, including myself, thought it could be. It addresses only a slice of the problem.

Schedule 2 talks about the kinds of things that have to be taken off the market, but it has only 14 products or product categories listed. For example, spectacle frames that, in whole or in part, are made of or contain cellulose nitrate would be prohibited. That is one of 14 prohibited categories. Under item 9, kite string made of a material that conducts electricity would be prohibited. That is a good thing to prohibit. However, I am giving these examples to show that the schedule is very narrow and specific.

Item 14 concerns law darts with elongated tips. Yes, it is good to ensure that these kinds of products are not in the marketplace where they could hurt people. However, when there are only 14 exclusions and they are that specific, that tells us there is a lot this bill does not address. That is more where I would like to direct my remarks.

It was very ably captured by the member for Etobicoke North earlier in the debate. She and I, as well as some of the other committee members, have grave concerns about the bill's failure to address toxins, carcinogens, the cumulative impacts of compounds that may not be harmful in small doses but build up in the body causing damage to health, chronic exposure, toxins in products affecting the environment when they are flushed down the drain or go into landfills and accumulate in the environment, and very worrisome hormone disrupters. These chemicals are not adequately removed from circulation in consumer products in this bill.

I am particularly concerned about the impact of consumer products containing chemicals and toxins that I have noted, such as pesticides, persistent organic pollutants, arsenic, lead, or mercury in products that children have access to, children's products such as toys and clothing. Other countries have done the job of removing access to these toxic and carcinogenic compounds from consumers. Canada has not done that yet. We still need to do that, and Bill C-6 does not do the job.

My concern about children's health and the environment goes back a number of years. I had the privilege in 2003 of being the president of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. During my term, I chose to put two things on the forward agenda of CCME so that they would be part of what the provincial and federal ministers would research, address and develop strategies for.

One of those two items was the issue of children's health and the environment. Children process these toxins differently. It is not just a matter of smaller bodies needing proportionately less of the chemicals to create harm. Children are actually in a developmental stage in their early years, so there can be a disruption of their neurological and metabolic development that is very harmful. Government needs to be addressing this. We need a stronger approach to eliminating these toxins, and Bill C-6 just does not do that.

Liberal members put forward a number of amendments to address this concern. For example, there was an amendment to clause 7 that would identify cumulative impacts, chronic exposure and release into the environment as areas of harm and danger to people that would be covered by this bill.

We crafted an amendment, a new clause 8.1, in which we would have had this bill list up to 700 chemicals, carcinogens, hormone disrupters, and toxins, drawn from the groups of agents provided by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, as well as substances listed in schedule 1 of CEPA, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

We proposed that these compounds be covered under Bill C-6. We proposed that they be removed over time if the minister could not show reason that they were absolutely essential to stay in consumer products aimed at children. So our amendments squarely addressed the issue of access that children have to compounds that are harmful to them and not covered in the set of 14 categories in the schedule included in the bill.

We successfully brought forward an amendment to have an advisory committee, so that as the government goes forward with the regulations there can be proper consultation and a thoughtful approach to the regulations so that any concerns that may come forward based on the rather thin consultation that has happened so far on this bill can be addressed in the crafting of the regulations.

The government's view was that the improvements we were looking for can be covered under CEPA, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, and its chemical management plan, and that those are vehicles for pulling those toxins out of the environment.

I accept that it is a possibility. My knowledge from previously dealing with CEPA when I was a provincial environment minister was that it was very slow to actually act on removing toxins from the environment. It had a huge list that it was not getting to, and it was causing great frustration for Canadians concerned about environmental issues and in provinces across the country.

We have been assured that CEPA has been fixed and is moving forward more quickly and that the chemical management plan is doing the job that we were looking for from Bill C-6. This has yet to be demonstrated to my satisfaction.

We have done a small segment with Bill C-6, but I am going to be calling on the advisory committee legislated by Bill C-6 to take a very thorough look at these issues of chronic toxic effects and cumulative effects of these toxins, carcinogens, hormone-disrupters, and persistent organic pollutants. I am going to challenge that advisory committee to put forward an approach to pulling those out of consumer products.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

June 10th, 2009 / 3:45 p.m.
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Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to launch the debate at third reading of Bill C-6, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products.

We heard at second reading that there is strong support in this House for strengthening consumer product safety. This proposed consumer product safety legislation seeks to provide improved oversight of a broad range of products, including toys for our children, and it aims to fulfill a promise made by this government in last November's Speech from the Throne.

To begin, I would like to highlight the legislation's key points. The proposed act focuses on three areas: active prevention, targeted oversight and rapid response.

First, let us talk about active prevention. The act will introduce a general prohibition against the manufacture, importation, advertisement or sale of consumer products that pose an unreasonable danger to human health or safety.

The new legislation will allow Health Canada to address consumer products in Canada that pose an unreasonable danger to the health or safety of the public. Compliance and enforcement will be strengthened through maximum fines of up to $5 million for some of the worst offences. That is a big step up from the current maximum penalty of $1 million, and this change would put us in step with our major trading partners.

Our government plans to work closely with the industry to ensure changes are understood and properly implemented. Workshops and other information sharing opportunities will be used to promote awareness of the new legislation.

Second, Bill C-6 focuses on targeted oversight. This is especially important for products where the risks may not yet be fully understood or that pose the greatest potential hazard to the public.

The proposed act would give the Minister of Health the authority to order a supplier to conduct safety tests and submit results to the minister. It would also require suppliers to notify Health Canada and, in some cases, its partners through the supply chain of defects or serious product-related incidents, including near miss incidents where injury has been averted.

Finally, this proposed legislation also includes measures to allow for a speedy response to problems once they are identified.

Under the proposed new act, we want to be able to move quickly and decisively to protect the public when a problem occurs. To do so, we need the ability to order recalls of unsafe consumer products and require suppliers to maintain accurate records to enable quick tracking of products that need to be pulled.

To implement these prevention, surveillance and rapid response activities, more consumer product safety inspectors will be hired, creating a more complete safety net for all consumer products. Through Bill C-6, our government is demonstrating its commitment to consumer product safety by proposing action that Canadians want and need.

The amended Bill C-6 we have before us today reflects the extensive analysis of the members of the Standing Committee on Health. Over the past month, the committee heard from government witnesses and 33 other witnesses representing over 24 organizations.

In total there were five separate sessions devoted to review and discussion of Bill C-6, two of which were extended. In these sessions all voices were heard and all opinions were closely considered. The result of the committee's hard work is an amended bill that we think well reflects the underlying policy intent of the bill, as well as some other key aspects of concern to some witnesses.

There were thirteen amendments to the bill, of which six were put forth by the government and seven by the opposition. Government amendments included delivering on a commitment made by the Minister of Health to make it crystal clear that natural health products would not be regulated by this act.

The other government amendments were housekeeping in nature to clarify technical aspects of the bill. For instance, Bill C-6 was amended to specify that documents that a person must retain shall only be retained for six years.

The seven opposition amendments addressed two key areas: consultation and information sharing. The first group of amendments introduced provisions into Bill C-6 to ensure that the Standing Committee on Health would be consulted on foundational regulations that will be created under this new act.

The government remains committed to moving quickly with proposed regulations and believes that new regulations made under Bill C-6 will benefit from the analysis and advice from the Standing Committee on Health.

The second group of amendments demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that Canadians have the information they need. As such, the standing committee approved an amendment to Bill C-6 to explicitly state that the minister may disclose to the public information about a danger to human health or safety that a consumer product poses.

Finally, at report stage, the House agreed that Bill C-6 should be amended to include provisions for an advisory committee, which would support the implementation of the proposed Canada Consumer Products Safety Act. I thank the hon. member for St. Paul's for this suggestion.

The advisory committee will provide a forum for the exchange of informed views from the full range of experts, building on the skills and knowledge that already exist within the department, and it will provide valuable information on industry trends that may need to be addressed within the legislation or its supporting regulations.

As I conclude, I would like to remind my colleagues that Canada's consumer product legislation is 40 years and has fallen behind other jurisdictions and its update is overdue. By benefiting from a wide diversity of expert views, Canadians can be assured that this government is committed to building as strong and effective product safety regime as possible.

As a result, Bill C-6 will put in place modern safeguards and strong compliance enforcement mechanisms, and Canadian consumers deserve that. With Bill C-6, the government will have the tools it needs to act swiftly and decisively to help protect Canadians. We want there to be a greater incentive for companies to think safety first more than ever before.

We want to level the playing field for reputable companies by having a stronger hammer to bear against peddlers of unsafe goods.

I know all parties in the House support consumer product safety. I believe all members should therefore join me in supporting Bill C-6.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

June 10th, 2009 / 3:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Oshawa, the parliamentary secretary, is an individual whom I have learned to work very diligently with in the past. I know his deep commitment to this legislation. If he brings to the health committee his same ability to make the industry committee work as he did last year, I have no doubt there will be further results for that good member.

It is in that spirit that I want to ask the hon. member something he probably will not find all too different from my line of questioning on committee last week.

It seems to be that the intentions of the bill are certainly there, and many people support this. However, I question whether there is a need for a new bill at all. Could we have simply amended the Hazardous Products Act, which has helped Canadians for the past 40 years? It has certainly been responsible for the kind of changes that were necessary from time to time, particularly as we saw products from around the world that were dangerous in nature and that brought forth concerns about things like product safety, toys, food and so on.

What is in the bill that could not have been done by simply amending the Hazardous Products Act and cause, in effect, a year and half delay, while the government was doing a bit of its own window dressing to make it and package it under something that it could have been originally?

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

June 10th, 2009 / 3:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague said, we have worked together quite well in the industry committee. I did enjoy his presence at the health committee and the questions he posed.

There are a couple of the things in the bill that we did not have in any other bill. The most important is probably the general prohibition, which is very important today. We have a changing economy, a globalized economy. This allows us to remove unsafe products immediately from the market. With the old bill, we were unable to do this.

We also have AMPs, these monetary penalties in the new bill. The size of the fines have increased. More Important, we have a new advisory council.

We heard from stakeholders during the debates in committee. As I said during my speech, the member for St. Paul's brought this very important amendment forward, which will make the legislation even better.

We had a great response during committee from the stakeholders. I am very proud of the legislation and I look forward to all members of the House supporting it.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

June 10th, 2009 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, our party is pleased the bill has come forward, particularly with the number of amendments we put forward, as well as amendments by other parties, which we thought were useful and also supported.

I hold the concerns of my members on that committee with the delay in moving on a comprehensive system of labelling. Increasingly, day by day, we find that a lot of the products used by Canadians contain very harmful substances.

Could the member advise us on what the government is doing to expedite moving on this? Could he tell us who will be represented on the advisory panel that will be established to look into expediting a comprehensive system of labelling?

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

June 10th, 2009 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform my colleague that labelling was brought up and we found it was a very controversial issue. That is why we put forth the advisory council. With the advisory council, the department has the ability to put forward experts, who are not available within the government, to advise the minister on these very important issues.

I would like to advise her as well that during the consultations and during committee, we found that Canada was applauded for the things we had in place for hazardous substances and for Canada's chemical management plan. We have that in place with the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. I look forward to further results from the bill as it moves forward. The legislation is over 40 years old.

I want to also thank the NDP critic as well as the Bloc and Liberal critics for their co-operation in making this an even better bill.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

June 10th, 2009 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, following the committee process, I know we are reasonably happy with the final result, although I want to ask the member to give me a better explanation of the whole issue of tobacco.

I understand we proposed removing the unique specific exemption within the Tobacco Act and including it along with the other laws listed in the bill's schedule of exempt legislation. This would have allowed the treatment of tobacco, like other dangerous products, to be changed if future circumstances dictated.

This amendment was voted down along with other proposed amendments to the schedule. One was the grandparenting of existing tobacco products, subject to any new products, to normal health requirements. The other was simply to add the Tobacco Act to the schedule.

Given our concern about the whole issue of smoking and tobacco issues in the House, what are the member's thoughts on this process and why it developed the way it did?

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

June 10th, 2009 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member brings forward a question that we heard several times during consultations in committee.

The bill works with ignition issues, as far as papers, with tobacco, but one of the things we learned in committee was that tobacco was governed under an entirely different act. It is a very unique product and because the government has a specific act for it, it was felt by the majority of committee members that it should be dealt with in this separate act.

The member may be aware of the co-operation we see in committee right now with An Act to amend the Tobacco Act, as far as banning tobacco products that are geared toward children. We had some great presentations yesterday. I think he would agree with me that we are moving forward in tobacco control. With the changes we are putting forward, this will again make Canada a leader in the world.

I look forward to the co-operation of the NDP, like the great co-operation of the critic in putting forth her ideas in improving the Tobacco Act.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

June 10th, 2009 / 4 p.m.
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Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the member will want to continue and perhaps ask questions of those of us who will be speaking in a few moments, but I have one small question for him.

Why would the legislation now proposed not contain within it, at the very minimum, product certification by those who produce, distribute and sell within Canada, a certification which would ensure the authenticity as well as certify the safety of the products, rather than waiting for an accident to happen and then compelling the company, under penalty of law and possibly criminal sanctions, to come forward with that information? It ought to be the obligation of businesses to ensure this is in fact the case, which makes it a lot easier for our enforcement agents to do their jobs.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

June 10th, 2009 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have different certifications in Canada, for example, the CSA, or the Canadian standards. However, what is really important in the bill is the general prohibition. It allows the government to act immediately to get any products brought into the market off the market regardless of certification. This would occur even before any certification.

As the member knows, when one goes through a certification process, it takes a bit of time. With the general prohibition in the legislation, it allows the Canadian government to act quickly and with certainty. By having it in the bill, it also brings us up to what our trading partners are doing in this regard.

Canada Consumer Product Safety ActGovernment Orders

June 10th, 2009 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I rise in the House to support Bill C-6, An Act respecting the safety of consumer products, on which our committee worked collegially for extended hours, having heard testimony from consumer products organizations, to environmental defence organizations, to toy manufacturers and struggled through challenging issues for both consumer health and well-being and for industry.

Reducing risk to human health has been a preoccupation of people, physicians and politicians for the last 5,000 years. Virtually every major advance in public health has involved the reduction or the elimination of risk, with the result being that the world is a safer place today. It is safer from accidents and deadly or incurable diseases and safer from hazardous consumer goods.

Therefore, it is the government's duty to do all it reasonably can to accurately assess and reduce risks, such as making sure that food, medicines and other products are safe. Although government can rarely hope to reduce risks to zero, it can aim to lower them to a more acceptable level and should openly and transparently communicate risk and risk-reduction strategies to the public.

The Canadian government introduced Bill C-6 in January 2009 to ensure through regulation that risk is reduced and that Canadians have access to safer consumer products. It is important for members to understand that natural health products will not be regulated under Bill C-6, but rather, under their own regulatory framework, the natural health products regulations under the Food and Drugs Act.

Bill C-6 focuses on three key areas: working to address problems before they happen, through building and improving safety throughout the supply chain; targeting the highest risks through conducting tests upon a minister's orders; and rapid response to protect the public when a problem occurs. The bill is needed as the laws overseeing consumer safety have not been thoroughly reviewed in over 40 years, and chemicals, technology and trade have all changed significantly.

For example, we live in an increasingly chemical society. Toxic chemicals are found in everyday consumer products, including art supplies, kitchenware, personal products, pet food, toys, water bottles and many products intended for babies. It is important for members to understand that over 100,000 chemicals were on the market before the 1980s and an additional 3,000 have been developed since that time. While some hazardous chemicals such as DDT and PCBs are banned, others are still widely used despite the fact that they cause cancer, mutation, or interfere with the body's reproductive function, take a long time to break down, accumulate in the body and are toxic, and have serious and irreversible effects on humans and the environment.

When researchers test the air in our homes, the average reading for volatile organic compounds increases in areas where cleaners are stored. CBC's Marketplace showed Pledge registered over 270 parts per billion; and Clorox wipes, over 1,000 parts per billion. Anything over 500 could be a problem for people with sensitivities. Lysol disinfectant spray, however, recorded 1,200 parts per million, a thousand times higher than Clorox.

Bill C-6 is important because it would fill many regulatory gaps and give government the power to issue recalls and raise fines. Companies and their directors, officers and employees may be held criminally liable for contravention and penalized up to $5 million. Specifically the bill would prohibit the manufacture, importation, advertising and sale of a consumer product that is a danger to human health or safety, is the subject of a recall, or does not meet the regulatory requirements that apply to the product.

The bill would require that all persons who manufacture, import or sell a consumer product for commercial purposes maintain documents identifying from whom they obtained the product and to whom they sold it and provide regulators with all related information once becoming aware of an incident. These mechanisms will help ensure that products can easily be removed from store shelves when a recall is made.

Bill C-6 would also give regulators the power to order manufacturers and importers to conduct tests on a product, provide documents related to those studies, and compile any information required to confirm compliance. The bill would also give inspectors new wide-ranging powers, including the power to order a recall if they believe, on reasonable grounds, that a consumer product is a danger to human health or safety. These powers may be invoked even when there is a lack of full scientific certainty.

This is a real strength of the bill, as scientific standards for demonstrating cause and effect are extremely rigorous and often time-consuming and substantial damage to humans may result during long testing. For example, many experts strongly suspected that smoking caused lung cancer long before overwhelming proof became available. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of smokers died waiting for a definitive answer. Thousands of others, however, quit smoking because they suspected, as there were 7,000 articles by 1964, that tobacco probably caused lung cancer.

When a product raises threats of harm to human health, precautionary measures should be taken, even if some cause-and-effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.

The committee struggled through key questions such as should the bill phase out or ban known carcinogens and other toxic chemicals in consumer products? Science is continually evolving and experts might not always know how dangerous chemicals really are, particularly for children, who are not little adults.

In fact, children have special vulnerabilities to the toxic effects of chemicals, because they are constantly growing. They breathe more air, consume more food, and drink more water than adults in proportion to their weight. They virtually live on the floor. Everything goes into their mouths, and their basic body systems are still developing. Exposure to chemicals at critical stages in their physical and cognitive development may have severe long-term consequences for health.

Priority concerns for children include exposure to air pollutants, arsenic, lead, mercury, pesticides and persistent organic pollutants. Dr. Gideon Koren, a pediatrician at the Hospital for Sick Children, asks:

How can we, as one of the most advanced countries in the world, allow these to enter our household for small children, without the appropriate testing to see that it's safe?

In October 2008, Canada became the first country in the world to ban the import and sale of polycarbonate baby bottles containing bisphenol A, or BPA, a chemical used in the lining of canned beverages and food. The chemical mimics estrogen in the body, and researchers have found links between BPA and numerous health problems, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and metabolic disorders. A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found BPA in the urine of over 90% of Americans tested.

Committee members also explored whether the bill should include a mandatory testing and labelling scheme, whether the government will dedicate the necessary resources to enforce the bill, and whether the bill goes far enough to protect the health of Canadians from toxic imports.

The United Steelworkers remind us that recalls and fines happen after the fact. Canada needs a strategy that repairs trade deals that have led to toxic imports crossing our border in the first place, such as in 2007, when millions of Chinese-made toys were recalled by both the EU and the U.S. The European Commission subsequently identified over 1,600 products that were considered risky.

Other important questions addressed by the committee included what is a safe chemical and a safe threshold, and can cumulative and synergistic effects of exposure be addressed?

A May 2009 study suggests that chemicals, including BPA, pesticides and phthalates, found in many cleaning, cosmetic and food products pose a real and cumulative threat to male fertility, namely feminization of boys in the womb. Prior to this study, demasculinization effects due to chemical pollutants in the environment were reported in many species of wildlife.

While exposure to a single chemical may cause no harm, the cumulative effect could be at least partly to blame for sperm counts falling, by blocking the action of testosterone in the womb.

Richard Sharpe, the researcher, reported:

Because it is the summation of effect of hormone-disrupting chemicals that is critical, and the number of such chemicals that humans are exposed to is considerable, this provides the strongest possible incentive to minimise human exposure to all relevant hormone disruptors, especially women planning pregnancy, as it is obvious that the higher the exposure the greater the risk.

The committee also considered the possibility of a phase-out schedule, what chemicals should be considered, how might a carcinogen be identified, and according to what lists of hazardous chemicals. Will the Globally Harmonized System of the Classification and Labelling of Chemicals, or GHS, be available in the future? Would a labelling system make sense, and if so, what products should be labelled and how should they be labelled?

The discussions were fulsome and wide-ranging. Other important questions were, what guidance, if any, does the California Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, otherwise known as Proposition 65, provide? This law requires companies to warn the public of potentially dangerous toxins in food. California has filed lawsuits seeking a range of warnings, including the mercury content of canned tuna and the presence of lead in Mexican candy.

A particular concern to industry is acrylamide, a chemical linked to cancer that forms in starchy foods cooked at high temperatures, such as french fries and potato chips.

The committee also explored what other approaches have been taken to eliminate toxic chemicals in the production process and whether substitution of safer alternatives is required. What do other jurisdictions, such as the European Union, Massachusetts, and now Ontario, have to offer?

A key commitment under the Ontario Toxics Reduction Act is to reduce Ontarians' exposures to toxic substances by requiring businesses that employ 10 or more people and involve 10,000 kilograms or more of specific substances to report and track harmful chemicals and develop pollution prevention plans. The implementation of these plans, like a successful law in Massachusetts, is voluntary.

Bill C-6 is an important step to protecting Canadians and was largely and widely supported by witnesses.

I would, however, like to stress that we cannot continue to repeat the key mistake of the past, namely responding late to early warnings as we did with benzene and PCBs.

Ever since anemia was diagnosed among young women engaged in the manufacture of bicycle tires in the 19th century, benzene was known to be a powerful bone marrow poison. Recommendations made in the U.K. and the U.S. in the 1920s for substitution of benzene with less toxic solvents went unheeded. Benzene-related diseases of the bone marrow continued to increase dramatically through the first half of the 20th century. Benzene was not withdrawn from consumer products in the U.S. until 1978, and this was done by manufacturers on a voluntary basis.

A chief medical inspector of factories wrote in 1934, “Looking back in the light of present knowledge, it is impossible not to feel that opportunities for discovery and prevention of disease were badly missed.”

Bill C-6 would significantly improve the product safety regime in Canada, which would translate into improved health and safety for Canadians. Product safety is in everyone's best interest and everyone has a role to play, Canadians, government and industry.

A relevant lesson from history is that animal slaughterhouse wastes were recycled into animal feed since the beginning of the 20th century. In the mid-1970s the U.S. department of agriculture decided that carcasses of sheep afflicted with the disease scrapie should not be used in animal or human foods. Tragically, the U.K. government decided that its industry should be left to decide how its equipment should be operated. It was not until 1996 that processing standards were introduced.

In the United States government oversight and relatively inexpensive restrictions may have prevented the mad cow epidemic. In the United Kingdom industry self-policing provided ideal conditions for the development of the progressive fatal disease that affects the brain.

How many chemicals are therefore currently on the Canadian Environmental Protection Act's environmental registry? How many of these have been comprehensively tested for any risks to ecosystems and people? What is the projected timeline for testing untested chemicals?

Members should think about what chemicals they are exposed to each and every day, from washing their hands to brushing their teeth to shampooing their hair to eating their breakfast cereal. What timeline for testing for toxicity, longevity in the environment and bio-accumulation in our bodies is acceptable?

Going forward, the question that begs to be asked is this. What world do we want 25 years from now, in 2034? It is my fervent hope that Bill C-6 is the beginning of a dialogue with Canadians with regard to what chemicals we are exposed.