Jun 19, 2023

Canada’s Cornerstone Environmental Law Has Been Modernized

Bill S-5, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act, received Royal Assent. This is a landmark step in keeping the environment and Canadians safe and healthy.

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) is one of Canada’s core environmental laws to fight pollution and protect the environment and Canadians from its effects. CEPA provides the tools to address a wide range of pollution sources, including from chemicals, biotechnology products, vehicles, engines, fuels, hazardous wastes, and environmental emergencies. Over the years, actions under CEPA have:

  • Prohibited the manufacture, import, and sale of six single-use plastic items, a significant step forward in our comprehensive strategy to prevent plastic waste and pollution.
  • Prevented the release of plastic microbeads from toiletries that wash down household drains and contribute to plastic pollution in oceans, rivers, and lakes.
  • Banned asbestos and products containing asbestos, as exposure to asbestos fibres is known to cause cancer and other diseases.
  • Taken action on BPA (bisphenol A) by banning the manufacture, importation, sale, or advertising of polycarbonate baby bottles that contain BPA.

This is the first set of comprehensive amendments to CEPA in over 20 years, to:

  • Better protect vulnerable populations who are most impacted by pollution.
  • Advance Indigenous reconciliation by confirming the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples including free, prior, and informed consent, and the role of Indigenous knowledge in decision-making related to the protection of the environment and human health, and by adding new reporting requirements.
  • Require a new Plan of Chemicals Management Priorities, increase the assessment of cumulative effects of exposure to multiple chemicals, and develop a Watch List to support the shift to safer chemicals.
  • Promote the development and implementation of scientifically justified alternative testing methods and strategies to reduce reliance on vertebrate animal testing.
  • Incorporate an environmental purpose into the Food and Drugs Act (FDA) so that environmental risks resulting from drugs can be managed and so that a modernized environmental regulatory framework for drugs can be developed under the FDA.

The amendments also, for the first time at the federal level, recognize the right to a healthy environment in Canada when administering CEPA, providing a solid foundation on which to continue taking action across the country on delivering a strong, healthy future for everyone who calls this country home.


“The world has changed in the last 20 years, and as of today, Canada’s cornerstone environmental law has changed with it. The modernization of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) responds to a changing global chemicals landscape and consideration of new science. We’ve made changes to ensure that we have the best possible tools to safeguard the health of Canadians and their environment from a wide range of substances. By affirming that every individual in Canada has a right to a healthy environment, CEPA will help protect vulnerable populations and contribute to a stronger, more resilient Canada. All parliamentarians contributed to these amendments, and we will continue our work in the future.” – The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change

“Keeping Canadians safe and healthy requires policies that are supported by the most recent scientific evidence because everyone deserves to live in a healthy environment. With the passing of Bill S-5, we are placing even greater focus on protecting the health of all Canadians from harmful chemicals, especially those who are more susceptible or highly exposed to environmental and health risks. As we begin the implementation process, we will use the latest science and methodology to reduce risks to Canadians and the environment.” – The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health

“The global chemicals landscape has changed, and scientific capacity has improved in the more than 20 years since CEPA came into force. Since that time, CEPA has enabled important programs, such as the Chemicals Management Plan, to reduce risks and better protect Canadians and the environment from exposure to harmful chemicals. Through Bill S-5, stronger action will be taken on chemicals that may cause cancer and genetic mutations or interfere with reproduction.” – Adam van Koeverden, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

“The two Houses of Parliament spent nearly 50 hours studying this legislation in committee, looked at more than 100 written briefs, and heard testimony from over 80 witnesses representing civil society, academia, industry, and Indigenous organizations. This work resulted in 24 amendments by the Senate and 27 clauses amended by the House of Commons. In my opinion, while more work always remains to be done, parliamentarians have delivered a much-needed piece of legislation that will help advance Canada’s environmental stewardship.” – Senator Stanley Kutcher …

Source: Government of Canada

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