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ARCHIVED - A Guide to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 March 2000

Part 2: Public Participation (Sections 12 - 42)

Environmental Registry (Sections 12 - 14)

CEPA 1999 requires the establishment of an Environmental Registry of information published under, or related to, the Act. The goal of the Registry is to make it easier to access public documents such as:

  • proposed administrative and equivalency agreements;
  • regulations;
  • Ministerial notices; and
  • inventories such as the National Pollutants Release Inventory.

The Environmental Registry will be electronic and accessible through the Internet at:

Voluntary Reports (Section 16)

This section provides "whistleblower protection" by prohibiting the disclosure of the identity of individuals who voluntarily report CEPA offences. In addition, it is an offence to dismiss, harass or discipline any employee who voluntarily reports a CEPA violation.

Investigation of Offences and Environmental Protection Actions (Sections 17- 38)

An individual who is at least 18 years of age and a resident of Canada may request an investigation of an alleged offence.

Should the Minister fail to conduct an investigation or responds unreasonably, and if there has been significant harm to the environment, then the individual may proceed with an "Environmental Protection Action." In such cases, the civil suit is against the person that allegedly committed the offence, and not the government. The Attorney General, however, has the option of participating in the action.

An individual who launches an Environmental Protection Action may ask the court to:

  • declare how the law governs the matter;
  • require the defendant to stop the action that caused the alleged offence or to take steps to prevent a continuation of an offence;
  • order the parties to negotiate a plan to correct or mitigate the harm to the environment; and
  • grant appropriate relief such as costs of the action, but not damages.

If the court is not satisfied with the first attempt at a mitigation plan, it may order the parties to negotiate another plan, or may appoint a person to draft a plan.

This right-to-sue is modeled on similar provisions in the Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights.

Additional Right to Seek Damages (Sections 39 - 40)

Section 40 reiterates the right in common law and the Québec Civil Code that allows anyone who has suffered personal loss or damage as a result of a violation of the Act to seek compensation.

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