I appreciate the opportunity to participate here and to witness the debate today.
I would like to bring back to the committee members what CEPA does in terms of many of the issues you have heard, because I think that is fundamentally the task before you. So I will remind you of what CEPA does and doesn't do and where we, as departments, stand on that last question with respect to biomonitoring.
As I've reported in previous meetings with you, we do think biomonitoring is a tool to measure progress, to identify trends, to help us set priorities and to interpret the results of the actions we've taken. Are these actions doing enough? Do we need to do more? It is not a silver bullet, but it's an important piece of the equation to help us measure success.
I would also like to point out that not everything can be measured through biomonitoring. Yes, the persistent bioaccumulative substances matter. There are some things that are highly reactive and that change when they get into the body; those make us sick, and there are ways to look for them. Those also matter because of their impact on human health and the illnesses they create, so we need a system that deals with all of those.
In terms of the other question with respect to measuring success, CEPA has three basic goals: pollution prevention, environmental protection, and human health protection. If you summarize CEPA, that's what it does. The key is, what are the measures for measuring success against those three criteria? As administrators of the act, I think the greater the clarity there is on how we will be measured in the future, the easier it will be to make sure we're putting the tools in place to answer that question in the future. So CEPA has three basic goals, and the question is the criteria we use to measure those, and that, obviously, is very challenging.
We have heard about precaution, we have heard about risk-based.... Just to remind members, CEPA is both. As I reported in previous appearances, it is risk-based, which is how we do our work...hazard and exposure in order to understand risk. But it also is precaution, as is inherent in the act, allowing us to act in the absence of certainty. So CEPA does have both of those elements right in the act, which you've heard debated. They are tools within the act for us to use, and we try very hard to do that. You have heard comments about our ability to implement, but I would just point out that both of those elements are there in the act today—risk-based and precaution.
The other thing is that we've heard about the burden of reverse onus, and putting the burden of proof on industry. CEPA does allow us to do that. On the new substances side, that's required; companies have to come forward and provide us that data. It starts off with that burden of proof for new substances. For existing substances, we are allowed through section 71 to demand data from industry; we can put the onus on them. Those tools are also within the act.
Finally, to sum up, we heard about REACH. I'd just like to point out that REACH has not yet passed in Europe; it is and has been subject to significant debate, and has been amended. That's not to say we should not to look at it, but Canada does have, in my opinion, a solid piece of legislation, and the categorization piece that we are going to complete by this September is world-leading. No other jurisdiction has done what we're about to complete, to go through every one of our existing substances and ask, are they persistent, bioaccumulative, and inherently toxic; what is the potential for exposure to humans; and are they hazardous to humans? We will then be able to set priorities that are far ahead of any other jurisdiction's, as we move forward, in terms of what we assess, how we assess it, what we choose to risk-manage, how we choose to risk-manage, and what burdens we want to put on industry in terms of information or action.
With the number of substances that are in use in any country, it will always be important to prioritize, whether it's the Europeans with REACH, or the Americans with their stewardship programs in the high-production, high-volume challenges. CEPA does have within it that categorization, which will help us as a country to set priorities for where we go with the next round of things. I think that's an important element, as we measure success. We are ahead of most of the world in terms of our existing substances.