Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act

An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, to make related amendments to the Food and Drugs Act and to repeal the Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination Act

Sponsor

Status

Second reading (House), as of April 13, 2021

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-28.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 to, among other things,

(a) recognize that every individual in Canada has a right to a healthy environment as provided under that Act;

(b) provide that the Government of Canada must protect that right as provided under that Act, and, in doing so, may balance that right with relevant factors;

(c) require the development of an implementation framework that sets out how that right will be considered in the administration of that Act, and require that research, studies or monitoring activities be conducted to support the Government of Canada in protecting that right;

(d) authorize the Minister of the Environment to add to the Domestic Substances List certain substances that were in commerce in Canada and subject to the Food and Drugs Act between January 1, 1987 and September 13, 2001, and provide that any substance may be deleted from the List when it is no longer in commerce in Canada;

(e) require that the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Health develop a plan that specifies the substances to which those Ministers are satisfied priority should be given in assessing whether they are toxic or capable of becoming toxic;

(f) provide that any person may request that those Ministers assess a substance;

(g) require the Minister of the Environment to compile a list of substances that that Minister and the Minister of Health have reason to suspect are capable of becoming toxic or that have been determined to be capable of becoming toxic;

(h) require that, when those Ministers conduct or interpret the results of certain assessments — or conduct or interpret the results of a review of decisions of certain governments — in order to determine whether a substance is toxic or capable of becoming toxic, they consider available information on whether there is a vulnerable population in relation to the substance and on the cumulative effects that may result from exposure to the substance in combination with exposure to other substances;

(i) provide that certain substances be classified as substances that pose the highest risk based on, among other things, their properties or characteristics;

(j) require that those Ministers give priority to the total, partial or conditional prohibition of activities in relation to toxic substances that are specified in Part 1 of Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, or to the total, partial or conditional prohibition of releases of those substances into the environment, when regulations or instruments respecting preventive or control actions in relation to those substances are developed;

(k) expand certain regulation-making, information-gathering and pollution prevention powers under that Act, including by adding a reference to products that may release substances into the environment;

(l) allow the risks associated with certain toxic substances to be managed by preventive or control actions taken under any other Act of Parliament, and the obligations under sections 91 and 92 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 to be the responsibility of whoever of the Minister of the Environment or the Minister of Health is best placed to fulfil them;

(m) expand the powers of the Minister of the Environment to vary either the contents of a significant new activity notice with respect to a substance not on the Domestic Substances List or the contents of the List itself with respect to a substance on the List that is subject to the significant new activities provisions of that Act;

(n) extend the requirement, to notify persons of the obligation to comply with the significant new activity provisions of that Act when a substance that is subject to those provisions is transferred to them, so that it applies with respect to substances on the Domestic Substances List, and authorize that Minister to limit by class the persons who are required to be notified of the obligation when a substance that is subject to those provisions is transferred to them; and

(o) require that confidentiality requests made under section 313 of the Act be accompanied by reasons, and to allow the Minister of the Environment to disclose the explicit chemical or biological name of a substance or the explicit biological name of a living organism in certain circumstances.

The enactment also makes related amendments to the Food and Drugs Act to enable the assessment and management of risks to the environment associated with foods, drugs, cosmetics and devices by, among other things,

(a) prohibiting persons from conducting certain activities in respect of a drug unless the Minister of Health has conducted an assessment of the risks to the environment presented by certain substances contained in that drug;

(b) enabling the Minister of Health to take measures in respect of the risks to the environment that a drug may present throughout its life cycle; and

(c) providing the Governor in Council with supporting regulation-making authorities.

Finally, the enactment repeals the Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination 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.

April 28th, 2021 / 5:10 p.m.
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Minister of Energy, Government of Alberta

Sonya Savage

To start with, we're concerned with the overreach—the overextension of the federal government's reach into provincial jurisdiction, which is in the area of waste management—by designating plastics as a toxic substance. It really goes right to the heart of what is provincial jurisdiction.

The recently introduced Bill C-28 changes don't change the position that the provinces have. I think this position is shared by a number of other provinces. My colleague, Minister Nixon, our environment minister, has signed a joint letter with his colleagues from Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, addressing some of those concerns.

Fundamentally, provinces are the main jurisdiction, the main actors, in any sort of plastics product management. It's within provincial jurisdiction that each of our provinces is taking action to reduce plastic waste. We all are taking this seriously and taking steps to reduce the waste. We don't want to see the federal government duplicating the outcomes of provincial programs. We want to continue working with the federal government, but the current proposed approach to plastic products interferes with the outcomes in our programs here in our provinces.

April 21st, 2021 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Thank you very much.

Madame Boudreault from Bosk, it sounds like your products are very innovative. Are you going to be affected adversely by the designation of some of your products? Are your products going to be on the schedule, whether the current schedule or a future schedule as featured in Bill C-28?

April 21st, 2021 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Mr. Burt, you've mentioned Bill C-28. Obviously, the Liberal members here are likely going to say that Bill C-28 removes the word “toxic” from the regulated schedule; however, the rest of the bill still refers to the substances as toxic, so that doesn't really do anything.

Why is the word “toxic” so harmful to your industry?

April 14th, 2021 / 6:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Yes. In essence, it's similar to the question of my colleague Mr. Bittle, who asked whether Bill C-28 could address concerns about Bill C-230. If Bill C-28 is well thought out, it should in principle address discrimination.

April 14th, 2021 / 6:30 p.m.
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Director General, Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, Department of the Environment

Laura Farquharson

If the amendments to CEPA that were introduced in Bill C-28 pass, then the Minister of Environment and Climate Change will be required to undertake research and studies, and the Minister of Health will be required to undertake research and studies, including biomonitoring surveys which could focus on vulnerable populations. That gathering of data and the requirement to gather that data, as I think your previous witnesses talked about too, are really crucial to understanding what the issues are and being able to come up with solutions that will work.

I think, as well, we have the right to a healthy environment. That's been recognized under the act, and in that, an implementation framework will be developed.

To the point of how important it is to have people involved in that, it has to be developed in two years. There will be consultation on that, so that we understand what's important to people in developing what a right to a healthy environment means under CEPA.

An implementation framework must address principles of environmental justice, which is obviously a broader term than environmental racism, but I think captures the intersectionality—

April 14th, 2021 / 6:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Thank you so much.

I know officials from ECCC briefly discussed it, but yesterday the government introduced legislation to strengthen the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, delivering on an important commitment. I was wondering if you could help the committee understand, or perhaps explain—I know you got cut off at the end—the linkages between Bill C-230 and Bill C-28, and how Bill C-28 could help address issues identified in Bill C-230.

April 14th, 2021 / 6:20 p.m.
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Director General, Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, Department of the Environment

Laura Farquharson

Bill C-28 recognizes a right to a healthy environment under CEPA, and it's set out that there will be an implementation framework to delineate how that lens will be used in the administration of the act.

April 14th, 2021 / 6:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

I come back to Bill C-28, which states the right to a healthy environment and the protection of vulnerable populations. Do we not have tools there to deal with injustices?

April 14th, 2021 / 6:10 p.m.
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Director General, Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, Department of the Environment

Laura Farquharson

Was the question how does Bill C-28 address the siting of industry?

Sorry, it did break up a little bit. Was that the essence of the question?

April 14th, 2021 / 6:05 p.m.
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Director General, Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, Department of the Environment

Laura Farquharson

Bill C-28 recognizes a right to a healthy environment for every individual, as provided under CEPA, and then requires the development of an implementation framework to elaborate on the way that right will affect the administration of the act. There's no requirement to create a vulnerable populations panel, but perhaps it was that implementation framework that you're referring to.

At the same time, though, there are a number of specific references to vulnerable populations in the bill, and there are probably two ways in which Bill C-28 addresses the issue underlying this bill.

The first is in the research requirements. Amendments would require the Minister of Health to conduct biomonitoring surveys, and the bill specifically says that those could be in relation to vulnerable populations.

Also, there's explicit recognition that the government's duty to exercise its powers must be undertaken in a way that protects the environment and human health, including the health of vulnerable populations.

Both ministers must consider available information regarding vulnerable populations and cumulative effects when conducting and interpreting the results of certain risk assessments and in developing the plan of chemicals management priorities.

Maybe I'll stop there. That's probably enough. Those are all ways that, I think, get at some of the issues that underlie this bill as well.

April 14th, 2021 / 6:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Raj Saini Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Okay. Let me repeat the question.

Bill C-28 would establish a vulnerable populations panel to help better understand and address the effects of toxic chemicals on vulnerable populations.

Would that panel help to address some of the concerns raised in this bill, and do you see that as a step towards ending environmental racism in Canada?

April 14th, 2021 / 5:47 p.m.
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Laura Farquharson Director General, Legislative and Regulatory Affairs, Department of the Environment

Good afternoon. I am Laura Farquharson. I am director general of the legislative and regulatory affairs directorate of the environmental protection branch at Environment and Climate Change Canada.

I'm accompanied by my colleagues from ECCC: Pascal Roberge, director of the program integration division for the national pollutant release inventory at the science and technology branch; and Silke Neve, director of the information and indicators division of the strategic policy branch. As well, David Morin is here from Health Canada. He is the director general of the safe environments directorate at the healthy environments and consumer safety branch.

We are pleased to appear today to participate in your study of Bill C-230.

As you know, this bill requires the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to develop a national strategy to redress the harm caused by environmental racism, in consultation with provincial, territorial and municipal governments and indigenous and other affected communities, persons and bodies.

This bill comes at a time when, as public servants, we are seized with issues around diversity, equity and inclusion and with combatting systemic racism, and when Canadian citizens are becoming increasingly seized as well.

In my remarks, I'll focus on some of the proposed or existing legislative or policy frameworks that, to some extent, address the subject matter of this bill. Then I will turn to David, who will speak about Health Canada's role in protecting the health of Canadians from environmental risks.

You discussed the definition of environmental racism.

While there is no commonly accepted definition of environmental racism, it generally refers to racial discrimination in environmental polices, practices and actions, and includes the way in which minority groups may bear a disproportionate burden of adverse health and environmental impacts from environmental pollution. Think, for instance, of landfills or polluted air.

Existing federal legislation and recent amendments ensure the government seeks to protect the environment and health of all Canadians, including vulnerable populations.

Yesterday, as you know, the government tabled Bill C-28, which aims to strengthen the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, with a particular focus on recognizing a right to a healthy environment as provided under that act.

If passed, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the Minister of Health will be required to develop an implementation framework to set out how a healthy environment will be considered in the administration of the act. Among other things, the implementation framework will elaborate on principles such as environmental justice and non-regression. Interested persons, such as stakeholders and partners, will have an opportunity to participate in the development of the implementation framework.

In addition, the ministers are required to conduct research, studies or monitoring activities to support the government in the protection of a right to a healthy environment. This requirement could, for instance, assist in addressing environmental justice issues. For example, it could include the collection and analysis of data to identify and monitor populations and communities that are particularly vulnerable to environmental and health risks.

Additional amendments proposed in the bill tabled yesterday would recognize in the preamble the importance of considering vulnerable populations and cumulative effects. They would codify a number of new elements, including defining “vulnerable population”; requiring the Minister of Health to conduct biomonitoring surveys, which may include vulnerable populations; ensuring that vulnerable populations and cumulative effects are taken into account when developing and implementing the new plan of chemicals management priorities; and requiring that the ministers consider available information on vulnerable populations and cumulative effects when conducting and interpreting risk assessments.

To turn to another area of work, ECCC has been working closely with Indigenous Services Canada—

April 14th, 2021 / 5 p.m.
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Bloc

Monique Pauzé Bloc Repentigny, QC

Thank you.

You'll understand that because of the Quebec exception, Bill C-230 and Bill C-28 are of less interest to Quebec than to the rest of Canada.

I'll ask you another question. One of the fundamental principles guiding the action of my political party is the defence of Quebec's environmental sovereignty. This isn't just the position of the Bloc Québécois, but also the position taken by the governments of Quebec throughout history.

Bascially, it's Quebec laws that protect the environment in Quebec. We think these laws take precedence over Canadian laws because our territory belongs to us and because the federal government doesn't have to encroach upon Quebec's environmental responsibilities. I'm thinking of the drinking water in particular.

Bill C-230 directly challenges the enforcement of environmental laws in the provinces and even purports to assess their enforcement and monitoring. Did you think about this crucial aspect when drafting this bill? Are you sensitive to the constitutional reality of Canada and the official position of the state of Quebec?

If so, how do you reconcile this understanding of the division of powers in Canada with the provisions in your bill?

The EnvironmentOral Questions

April 13th, 2021 / 2:45 p.m.
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North Vancouver B.C.

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson LiberalMinister of Environment and Climate Change

Mr. Speaker, Canadians need a stronger environmental protection law that confronts 21st century issues with 21st century science. Every Canadian should be able to live their lives free from harmful effects of chemicals.

Today we tabled Bill C-28, the strengthening environmental protection for a healthier Canada act. Our proposal to strengthen CEPA will help us to better protect the environment, recognize a right to a healthy environment and provide industry with certainty and predictability. Today we will ensure a healthier environment for Canada and for everyone.

Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada ActRoutine Proceedings

April 13th, 2021 / 10:05 a.m.
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North Vancouver B.C.

Liberal

Jonathan Wilkinson LiberalMinister of Environment and Climate Change