I'm pleased to be here this morning to make a brief presentation to you on the Enforcement Branch. My goal is to enable you to familiarize yourselves a little with the mandate and objectives of the Enforcement Branch and with the main tools at our disposal to carry out our mandate.
In slide 2, I'll briefly say a few words to explain to you the two main components of compliance and enforcement, to assist you in understanding the roles and responsibilities of each. The entire field of enforcement is divided into two main components.
The first is compliance promotion, the purpose of which is to inform businesses of the existence of acts and regulations and their requirements to ensure they understand their obligations. That responsibility is mainly borne by our programs within Environment Canada, which develops acts and regulations. The second is enforcement. This is where the Enforcement Branch comes in, the purpose of which is to enforce acts such as those that are developed and implemented by our organization.
With respect to slide 3, I'm going to give you a bit of a general explanation of how enforcement is implemented. Once a violation is identified, the objective is to return the alleged violators to compliance in the shortest time possible and, through the measures we take, to have a deterrent effect as a result of which violators will not consider repeating the same violations. So these are two main components: quickly returning to compliance and ensuring that violations are not repeated in future.
In slide 4, we provide a map of Canada showing where our various offices are located across the country. We thought that might be useful for the committee in clearly understanding how our offices are distributed. I'd like to pay special attention to the fact that, with the new resources allocated to us, mainly under Budget 2007, we were able to open six new offices in the country. These are the green points on the colour map. We have a new office in Cranbrook, British Columbia, four new offices in the Ontario region, in Thunder Bay, Sault Ste Marie, Sarnia and North Bay, and a new office in the Quebec Region, in Harrington Harbour on the Lower North Shore. These six offices are in addition to the existing Environment Canada offices across the country.
In the next slide, on page 5, a table shows how our employees are distributed across Canada. You see the various regions making up our organization. The number of employees is shown for the two main programs, the environment and wildlife. All the figures in the table are actual and correct. I draw your attention to the fact that there are errors in some of the totals, in particular for the Ontario and Quebec regions. However, the individual elements in the table are precise and accurate. So there is a total of 315 enforcement officers across the country, one-third for wildlife and two-thirds for the environment.
In slide 6, I'll add a few words to briefly present the three main activities through which the Enforcement Branch carries out its mandate. First of all, inspections are an important tool enabling us to verify compliance with the various acts and regulations. I would particularly like to draw your attention to the fact that inspections are conducted every year under a national plan developed in cooperation with our colleagues in the programs and certain partners, including other federal departments and organizations and the provinces, to determine the most important sectors or areas where we should focus our inspections in order to make optimum use of the resources at our disposal.
The second activity is investigations, which often result from the findings of our inspections and information received from the public on situations brought to our attention or information exercises conducted within our organization.
The third activity, which is becoming increasingly important in our organization, is intelligence-gathering. We have experts who analyze and cross-reference various types of information to determine which areas of activity are likely to have areas of non-compliance and thus to channel our resources to the most significant non-compliant sectors across the country.
I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that, since 2004, the enforcement sector at Environment Canada has been integrated into a single organization, which is the Enforcement Branch, under the responsibility of a chief enforcement officer, who reports directly to the deputy minister.
The purpose of this exercise was to create an organization with a very clear line structure making it possible to take uniform, effective decisions across the country and to draw a distinction between effective enforcement and the promotion of compliance and pollution prevention, which is carried out through our department's various programs.
I'm going to add some information concerning slide 7. Last week, I told you about the policies made available to our enforcement officers to enable them to make their decisions within a well-defined framework. One of the important principles in our work is to enforce the laws in a fair, predictable and consistent manner across Canada. To do this, policies are fundamentally important. We currently have three policies in place and a fourth in development. I won't go into the details, but the last one concerns the Species at Risk Act.
These policies are central to our officers' approach and work instruments. They are used in their training and ensure that the act is enforced in a well-defined framework across the country.
Slide 8 shows some core principles guiding our officers' work. The first principle is that compliance with the acts and regulations is mandatory. No act is excepted. All acts must be complied with. The second principle, which is extremely important, is that our enforcement officers must enforce the acts in a fair, predictable and consistent manner. Third, the accent is clearly on the protection of biodiversity, prevention of damage to the environment and risks to health. These are the most important factors guiding our officers' decisions.
All alleged offences will be reviewed by our officers for the purpose of taking coherent measures in accordance with the relevant policies. Lastly, we encourage the public to inform us of any suspected violation. We are committed to taking action and following up on those statements.
On page 9, we explain how our officers' work is done with regard to investigations and inspections. As I mentioned last week, it is our enforcement officers who determine, based on available evidence, whether there are grounds to initiate an enforcement action, whatever it might be. That decision is up to them. Then, our officers have a range of tools, depending on the situation, to take the most appropriate measures commensurate with the nature of the violation or other criteria that must be considered, which I talked to you about earlier.
Lastly, for the purpose of selecting the most appropriate enforcement measure, three very important criteria are set out in the policies I referred to a little earlier. They are the nature of the violation, which concerns the severity of the harm done, the violator's intent or attempts to conceal information and the effectiveness of the measure. A little earlier, I talked about quickly returning to compliance, avoiding a repetition of the violation, and uniformity, that is to say to ensure that we take similar measures for the same violation across the country, regardless of the location or sector.
I'll briefly present the last two slides. Let's look at the table on page 10, which gives you an idea of the various tools available to our officers. They range from the warning letter to the laying of charges. I don't intend to provide a lot of details, but I will mention that a range of tools are available. One of the benefits of the new bill is that it makes it so these tools are much more standardized for all the acts and regulations that we use, which is not currently the case. Some tools are not available under certain acts. That will be corrected by the new bill.
With regard to the last slide, I can tell you that, with the number of officers at our disposal across the country, we have to work in very close cooperation with various partners, other federal agencies, provincial agencies and even internationally. Organizations cooperate with us on various files.