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ARCHIVED - CEPA Annual Report for Period April 1999 to March 2000

Section 1: Overview of CEPA Implementation, 1999-2000

"It is hereby declared that the protection of the environment is essential to the well-being of Canada...." These first words of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) set he context for the 149 sections that follow. The essential purpose of the law is to protect human health and the environment from the effects of toxic substances and other harmful substances and wastes.

CEPA and its regulations are one of the legislative tools that the federal government uses to prevent and control pollution. Environment Canada administers CEPA on behalf of the federal government and shares with Health Canada the task of assessing and managing the risks associated with toxic substances.

This year's CEPA annual report is the last report to cover work accomplished under the original CEPA. Next year's annual report will cover the first year of activity under Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA, 1999).

Implementation of CEPA involves the following cycle of activities:

  • Risk Assessment -- The starting point for CEPA activity is science. Throughout the risk assessment phase, science informs decisions about how to classify substances.

  • Development of Risk Management Strategies -- Based on the scientific information available, we are able to work with stakeholders to determine how best to manage certain substances and what kinds of controls are required. Involving other government departments, other levels of government, industry and non-governmental organizations in this process has proved to be an excellent way of doing business. We can explain the scientific assessment of a substance, increase awareness and understanding of the issues involved, learn more about the real-world factors at play and then work toward a consensus on recommendations for action. The results contribute to an improved implementation process.

  • Implementation of Risk Management Strategies -- CEPA provides a variety of mechanisms for achieving the goal of environmental protection. Objectives and guidelines, covered in Part I, set benchmarks; Part II provides for regulatory measures; while enforcement options, covered in Part VII, identify penalties for the failure to comply with the law and its regulations. We continue to explore ways to ensure that controls and limits on the production, use or release of toxic substances are respected.

  • Monitoring -- Again, science helps us to assess the effect of the measures that have been taken. Are the controls working? What else needs to be done? Is there an acceptable level of compliance with guidelines, or do regulations need to be put in place? Other essential CEPA-related activities include monitoring the state of the environment and reporting on it so that stakeholders can participate in the evaluation of current efforts.

It is clear that the work undertaken in the context of CEPA is extremely broad. There are, in fact, many challenges associated with reporting on CEPA in any given fiscal year. The enormous volume of work to consider for the annual report means that difficult decisions have to be made about what to include. As well, it is sometimes hard to distinguish between departmental activity related to CEPA and other departmental accomplishments. Finally, many projects run over several years, as they move through the risk assessment, risk management, implementation and monitoring cycle.

There is no doubt that the most significant achievement during 1999-2000 was the completion of the legislative process that resulted in a stronger, more dynamic and responsive Act. CEPA, 1999 came into force on March 31, 2000.

The pages that follow present an overview of the activities that took place between April 1, 1999, and March 31, 2000, the day CEPA, 1999 came into effect.

  • Section 2 presents information on the implementation of each of CEPA's seven major parts.

  • Section 3 details some of the work that the Department did to get ready for the coming into force of CEPA, 1999.

  • Section 4 provides resource information. We encourage readers to refer to the Web sites referenced throughout this report for more information about items of interest to them.

We encourage readers to refer to the Web sites referenced throughout this report for more information about items of interest to them.