CEPA: Cnd. NGOs press for legislative amendments ......

CEPA: Cnd. NGOs press for legislative amendments ......

Postby Oscar » Mon Oct 22, 2018 8:12 pm

Canadian NGOs press for legislative amendments to CEPA

[ https://chemicalwatch.com/news/ ] (****NOTE . . . REGISTRATION REQUIRED for access to all LINKS)

Groups seek shift to hazard-based toxicity definition

18 October 2018 / Canada, Environmental Protection Act

More than 30 public interest groups in Canada have drafted legislation to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (Cepa) and are urging federal ministers of the environment and health – Catherine McKenna and Ginette Petitpas Taylor – to introduce the amendments in the current session of Parliament.

Among the proposed amendments is to change the definition for toxic substances to make it more hazard-based, as opposed to risk-based, and to impose on companies a burden of proof to demonstrate that a substance does not pose an unacceptable risk. These, among other suggestions, are in line with areas identified as needing reform in a 2017 Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development (Envi) report.

The government responded to the Envi report in June. It said it supported some of the suggested reforms, and would work on legislative changes "as soon as possible in a future parliament".

But the co-signing organisations – including the Canadian Environmental Law Association (Cela) and the Citizens' Network on Waste Management – said they "support timely action to address long understood, but neglected problems with Cepa, a law that has not been significantly amended in two decades."

And they have therefore proposed amendments to "expedite getting a robust government bill before Parliament much sooner than might otherwise have been the case".

Proposed amendments

The draft legislation floated by the NGOs includes a focus on:

- protecting vulnerable populations from toxic substances;
- controlling endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs);
- substitution of safer alternatives; and
- allowing for expanded civil enforcement of Cepa by the public.

If adopted into law, the toxic substance definition would cover substances that constitute or may constitute a danger to the environment or human health, as well as those substances that have or may have an immediate or long-term harmful effect on the environment. A substance need not be persistent nor bioaccumulative to meet this definition, it adds.

The amendments also seek to:
- expand information gathering authorities with respect to substances;
- remove the option for the government not to take action on substances identified as toxic or capable of becoming toxic;
- expand the considerations that must be addressed when establishing risk management controls, including the effects on vulnerable populations, aggregate exposures and cumulative effects, and the substitution of safer alternatives; and
- put in place 'national safer alternatives action plans' for substances listed on Cepa schedule 1 – the country's list of toxic substances.

The legislation would also allow citizens to bring action in a federal court against the government or organisations "violating or threatening to violate Cepa". The onus would be on the defendant to prove that its acts or omissions will not result in significant environmental harm.

The groups say they are calling on the federal ministers to act because of "the need for sound federal environmental law reform that addresses control of toxic substances, including carcinogens and endocrine disrupting substances, which pose serious risks to the health and well-being of present and future generations of Canadians and the natural world."

Industry-NGO joint position diverges

The approach recommended by the organisations goes well beyond positions jointly agreed by the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada (CIAC) and NGOs Environmental Defence and Ecojustice earlier this year.

In an April letter to Ms McKenna, the three organisations backed certain aspects of the Envi report – including:
- an overt recognition of the inherent right of all Canadians to a healthy environment;
- the need to protect vulnerable populations; and
- improvements to the timing and completion of risk management measures for substances identified as toxic.

But the CIAC has been a vocal opponent of moves that would shift the existing chemicals management approach toward a more hazard-based scheme. The April joint letter holds that the Chemicals Management Plan (CMP) is "an effective mechanism for prioritising and assessing existing chemicals needing risk assessment and risk management."

With a high-stakes election looming next autumn, it seems that a Cepa reform bill is unlikely to reach Parliament before 2020. But advocacy groups are likely to continue to press for changes ahead of a potential shift in leadership.

Kelly Franklin
North America editor

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Fe de Leon, MPH, Researcher and Paralegal
Canadian Environmental Law Association
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