The Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) is Canada’s cornerstone environmental law. This vast piece of legislation sets out how we regulate air and water pollution, how we assess the risk to the environment and human health posed by chemicals, organisms, hazardous waste, greenhouse gas emissions, ocean disposal, and environmental emergencies.

Last updated in 1999, CEPA has fallen out of step with modern science in a number of areas and the environmental community has long been advocating for stronger protection of our environment and our health. On April 13, 2021, Minister Jonathan Wilkinson tabled Bill C-28 in the House of Commons, proposing a number of amendments to CEPA.

Bill C-28 introduces a number of recommended amendments to CEPA specifically focused on human health. Most notably:

  • recognizing that all Canadians have the right to a healthy environment; and
  • updating the framework for assessing chemicals to incorporate modern science recognizing a wider scope of negative effects on human health than was understood in 1999, and consideration of vulnerable populations.

This Bill contains some of the improvements that RESILIENT has been advocating for and we celebrate the beginning of important conversations to protect our environment and our health. However, the Bill is modest in scope. Significant further changes are needed to completely modernize CEPA.

In the weeks and months ahead, and in partnership with like-minded NGOs, we will continue to engage government to move forward with policy changes to support a healthy, equitable, and resilient Canada as this Bill (and hopefully others!) makes its way through the parliamentary process.