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Compliance and Enforcement Policy for the Habitat Protection and Pollution Prevention Provisions of the Fisheries Act - November 2001

Introduction

Under the Constitution Act, 1867, the federal government of Canada is responsible for protecting and conserving the nation's fisheries resource and its supporting habitats. This responsibility includes protecting the intrinsic nature of the resource that will contribute to the preservation and enhancement of social, health and economic benefits derived by Canadians from fish habitats and the fisheries resource that those habitats support.

One of the principal tools available to the federal government to ensure sustainable fisheries for Canadians is the Fisheries Act. The Act provides the legal basis for protecting and conserving fish and fish habitat. Specifically, the habitat protection and pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act include sections 20 through 22, 26 through 28, 30, 32, and 34 through 42, and are intended to protect fish and fish habitat from harm caused by physical alteration or pollution (a synopsis of these sections is presented in Annex A). These provisions are an important component of the federal government's overall environmental protection program.

However, laws and regulations are not sufficient in themselves; they must be administered and enforced in a fair, predictable, and consistent manner. Those who administer the laws and those who must comply with them need to understand how the government intends to achieve compliance with the legal requirements. For these reasons, this Compliance and Enforcement Policy has been developed for the habitat protection and pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act.

The federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has the legislative responsibility for the administration and enforcement of the Fisheries Act. The Minister reports annually to Parliament on the administration and enforcement of the fish habitat protection and pollution prevention provisions of the Act. However, in 1978, the Prime Minister assigned to the Minister of the Environment responsibility for administration and enforcement of the pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act, which deal with the deposit of deleterious substances into water frequented by fish. In 1985 a Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the Department of the Environment (DOE) was signed, outlining the responsibilities of DFO and DOE for the administration and enforcement of the pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act. Therefore, this Compliance and Enforcement Policy has been developed jointly by DFO and DOE.

This Compliance and Enforcement Policy lays out general principles for application of the habitat protection and pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act. The Policy explains the role of regulatory officials in promoting, monitoring and enforcing the legislation. It is a national Policy which applies to all those who exercise regulatory authority, from Ministers to enforcement personnel.

The Policy explains what measures will be used to achieve compliance with the Fisheries Act habitat protection and pollution prevention provisions. It sets out principles of fair, predictable, and consistent enforcement that govern application of the law, and responses by enforcement personnel to alleged violations. This Policy also tells everyone who shares a responsibility for protection of fish and fish habitat--including governments, industry, organized labour and individuals--what is expected of them.

Within five years of implementing the Compliance and Enforcement Policy, DFO and DOE will review the manner in which the Policy has been applied by their officials, to determine whether administration and enforcement activities have been consistent with the Policy and whether changes in these activities, or in the Policy, are required.

This document and its annexes are intended to provide general guidance only. They are not a substitute for the Fisheries Act. In the event of an inconsistency between this document and the Act, the latter prevails. Individuals with specific legal problems are urged to seek advice from legal counsel.

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