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

Status

In committee (House), as of Nov. 3, 2022

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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, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Nov. 3, 2022 Passed 2nd reading of Bill S-5, 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

Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2022 / 10 a.m.
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Liberal

Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2022 / 10 a.m.
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Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Terry Duguid LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Madam Speaker, before I begin, I want to seek unanimous consent to split my time with the member for Cloverdale—Langley City.

Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2022 / 10 a.m.
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NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to split his time?

Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2022 / 10 a.m.
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Elizabeth May

No.

Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2022 / 10 a.m.
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NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader has a point of order.

Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2022 / 10 a.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, generally speaking, what we have seen over the last couple of weeks is that members in the opposition and in government have asked for the opportunity to share time. That is all this is; there is nothing mischievous.

The member for Winnipeg South just wants to do the same as others have done, given that it is the opening round, so maybe we could ask again if the member has unanimous support to split his time this morning.

Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2022 / 10 a.m.
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NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands has a point of order.

Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2022 / 10 a.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I do not think it is a point of order. I am trying to explain the concern that, while this may be routine, members in my position, when there is a 10-minute speech and a five-minute round, virtually never get a chance to ask a question. Bill S-5 is an enormously important bill to the Green Party—

Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2022 / 10 a.m.
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NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

That is a point of debate. I will ask the question one more time.

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to split his time?

Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2022 / 10 a.m.
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2022 / 10 a.m.
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Liberal

Terry Duguid Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her understanding on this matter and allowing my colleague to split time with me.

I am very pleased today to rise in support of Bill S-5. My remarks will focus on the government's accomplishments under its chemicals management plan, commonly known as CMP. This is relevant to Bill S-5, as these accomplishments have largely been achieved under the authorities of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, or CEPA.

Before I go on, I really want to thank all senators for their important work in the other place to bring the bill to this place so we can further consider it. The government has learned many lessons from the implementation of the CMP, and these have informed areas where the government is proposing changes to CEPA through Bill S-5.

In 2006, the government completed the categorization and prioritization of approximately 23,000 substances on the domestic substances list. This resulted in a list of more than 4,300 substances prioritized for further assessment based on their potential risk to the environment or human health.

Following this prioritization, Canada launched its chemicals management plan. Canada became the first country in the world to triage and announce a plan to systematically address its in-commerce chemicals based on environmental and human health concerns. This approach has gone on to inspire chemicals management approaches around the world, such as in the United States, Australia, Argentina and Brazil.

Nearly all of the approximately 4,300 prioritized substances have now been assessed. Chemicals assessment approaches have evolved since that list of 4,300 prioritized substances was first established. New chemicals have entered Canadian commerce, and our knowledge of risks we can protect Canadians from has grown. Therefore, a new process for prioritizing substances for assessment is required.

The changes proposed by Bill S-5 would include working with Canadians to develop and publish a plan of chemicals management priorities, which would, among other things, continue to build on Canada's world-class leadership in science-based decision-making while adopting a more collaborative and inclusive approach to setting priorities for substances to be assessed going forward. This new approach is intended to be flexible, nimble and scalable, and would allow for shifts and adaptations to new priorities as needed or as new information emerges.

The CMP is a science-based approach to substances management. It helps to reduce the risks posed by substances that are harmful to Canadians and the environment in a way that is predictable and transparent. This is accomplished by assessing not only the impact of substances in end-of-pipe emissions or transboundary pollution, but also their presence in food, consumer products, cosmetics, drugs, air and drinking water.

Members of our scientific community apply internationally adopted standards, methods and principles to the work carried out under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. Canada's approach to chemicals management is in line with that of other jurisdictions and is the foundation behind our international reputation of well-respected, science-based chemicals assessment. Bill S-5 builds on this foundation rooted in science and positions Canada well among other jurisdictions, both as a leader and as a contributor to chemicals assessment at large. I would caution MPs from changing the risk assessment and risk management provisions of the act.

As part of the CMP, the government overhauled its substances assessment process to include new tools. With these innovations, the government went from assessing just a few dozen substances each year to an average of over 300 per year. Where risks are identified, controls can be put in place. Since the launch of CMP in 2006, the government has developed measures to manage close to 500 substances assessed as posing a risk to human health or the environment.

One of the early accomplishments under the CMP was to help protect newborns and infants from exposure to bisphenol A, more commonly know as BPA. Following a risk assessment under the CMP in 2008, the government announced its intent to prohibit the manufacture, import, advertisement and sale of polycarbonate baby bottles containing BPA under the Hazardous Products Act, an action which continues today under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act. With this prohibition, newborn and infant exposure to BPA, which has the potential to affect brain development, social behaviour and anxiety after birth, declined by 96% between 2008 and 2014.

One of the lessons learned from this risk management action on BPA was the merit of meeting the risk management obligations under CEPA using other federal acts. Under Bill S-5, CEPA would be amended with this practice in mind and would enable the federal act or the minister best placed to manage the risks identified in a CEPA risk assessment for a toxic substance.

In addition to the innovative approaches to risk assessment and risk management since the CMP began, the government has also made advancements in research, monitoring and surveillance that have informed a range of actions taken under the authorities of CEPA. For example, monitoring initiatives funded under the CMP are instrumental for tracking levels of substances in both humans and the environment. Through the health measures survey, the government has obtained nationally representative biomonitoring data since 2007 of over 250 substances in the general Canadian population. These surveys have demonstrated that Canadians' exposures to many toxic substances have decreased over this time.

Biomonitoring can help inform Canadians about the progress that is being made to help reduce their exposure to harmful substances and can help identify new priorities for risk assessment. Bill S-5 would require the Minister of Health to conduct biomonitoring surveys as part of the obligation to conduct research and studies in relation to the health effects of substances. An additional amendment to clarify is that such research and studies, including biomonitoring surveys, may relate to vulnerable populations.

Bill S-5 would also amend CEPA to require the consideration of vulnerable populations and cumulative effects in risk assessments when information is available, which will improve the protection of Canadians and the environment. As vulnerable populations may be disproportionately exposed to or negatively impacted by harmful substances due to factors such as age, behaviour, health status, geography, culture and socio-economic status, it is important that we understand and take into consideration implicated groups' unique characteristics and needs when assessing and managing risks identified.

The reality is that Canadians and their environment are not exposed to substances in isolation, but to multiple different substances on a daily basis and over a lifetime, which is why it is so important to consider the cumulative effects of substances. Including these considerations in an amended CEPA will also help inform additional biomonitoring work to inform regulations.

To conclude, I urge all members to work together to ensure that this bill gets to committee as soon as possible in order for parliamentarians to start their important work.

Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2022 / 10:10 a.m.
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NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Madam Speaker, this is a bill that many of us have been waiting for for some time. It mentions, in its preamble, the right for Canadians to live in a healthy environment. I have a private member's bill, Bill C-219, which we will be hearing about later this fall, that talks about the environmental bill of rights, a right to live in a healthy environment, that would extend across the whole federal mandate, not just within CEPA, as this does.

Could the member comment on whether the government would consider amending Bill S-5 to take into account the stronger language from my bill about individual rights to live in a healthy environment, or even on whether the government would accept all the amendments that the Senate put forward? This bill needs to be fixed to be made more actionable when it comes to that right.

Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2022 / 10:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Terry Duguid Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Madam Speaker, the hon. member is a leader in the area of environmental protection. I look forward learning more about Bill C-219. We would consider it at that time.

I just want to assure the hon. member that we are going to have a very robust process at committee. The minister and I, and others, have indicated that we are certainly open to strengthening the bill. The Senate did some excellent work, which I think we can build on. I want to thank the hon. member for the question.

Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2022 / 10:15 a.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to express my gratitude to my colleagues in other parties who have held back so I could ask this question.

Further to the excellent points made by the hon. member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay, I want to direct the hon. parliamentary secretary to the observations filed by the Senate's Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources that accompanied the amendments. They are to the point and they say very clearly that we do not have a right to a healthy environment in Bill S-5, no matter how much the propaganda tells us we do.

I will quote from point 4 of its important submission:

This committee would like to state their concern that the right to a healthy environment cannot be protected unless it is made truly enforceable. This enforceability would come by removing the barriers that exist to the current remedy authority within Section 22...

The point closes with this sentence: “As Bill S-5 does not propose the removal or re-evaluation of these barriers, this Committee is concerned that the right to a healthy environment may remain unenforceable.” Is the government prepared to do what the Senate committee has challenged it to do and what Canadians expect it to do?

Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2022 / 10:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Terry Duguid Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Madam Speaker, this is the first time in the history of CEPA that a right to a healthy environment is there, front and centre. That will be debated in the House and at committee. The hon. member would have the opportunity to make those points again. As the hon. member would know, the bill, which was formerly Bill C-28 and is now Bill S-5, gives two years to codify and specify all of the conditions to implement that right to a healthy environment.