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ARCHIVED - Guidelines Respecting the Use of the Minister of the Environment's Information Gathering Powers Under Section 46 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999

Draft for Consultations - March 24, 2000

Environmental Protection Service
Environment Canada

March 2000


Section 46 of Part 3 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA '99), authorizes the Minister of the Environment to issue notices requesting information for the purposes of conducting research, creating an inventory of data, formulating objectives and codes of practice, issuing guidelines or assessing or reporting on the state of the environment. These Guidelines provide additional information on how the information gathering authority will be used.

As experience is gained through use of section 46 authorities and associated provisions, this document may be revised from time to time.


The new Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA '99) focuses on pollution prevention and the protection of the environment and human health in order to contribute to sustainable development. Under CEPA '99, the Government of Canada is obligated to, among other things: provide information to the people of Canada on the state of the Canadian Environment; apply knowledge, including traditional aboriginal knowledge, science and technology to identify and resolve environmental problems; and, endeavour to exercise its powers to require the provision of information in a coordinated manner.

Also, under CEPA '99, the Government of Canada is committed to a preventive and precautionary approach to deal with substances that could harm the environment and human health, and recognizes the responsibility of users and producers in relation to toxic substances and pollutants and wastes, and has adopted the polluter pays principle.

The Minister of the Environment, hereinafter the Minister, under section 44 of CEPA '99, is obliged to, among other things: establish, operate and maintain a system for monitoring environmental quality; conduct research and studies on specific subjects, including pollution prevention and environmental contamination arising from disturbances of ecosystems by human activity; publish on a periodic basis environmental quality data in Canada from monitoring systems, research, studies and any other sources; and, publish information respecting pollution prevention, pertinent information related to environmental quality and a periodic report on the state of the Canadian environment.

The Minister is also required, under sections 48 and 50, to establish a national inventory of releases of pollutants and publish the national inventory of releases of pollutants.

In order to facilitate compliance with the above-noted obligations and assist the Minister in fulfilling the purposes of CEPA '99, the Minister is given authority, under subsection 46(1) of CEPA '99, to collect information on a range of topics which virtually covers any matter dealt with under CEPA '99 (see Appendix 1) by publishing a notice in the Canada Gazette.

Information may be collected for the purpose of conducting research, creating an inventory of data, formulating objectives and codes of practice, issuing guidelines or assessing or reporting on the state of the environment. The authority applies to information that may be in the possession of the person to whom a request is directed, or information to which the person may reasonably be expected to have access.

Failure to comply with a notice issued under section 46 constitutes an offense under sections 272 and 273 of the Act.

These Guidelines fulfill the legislative requirement in subsection 47(1) of CEPA '99 and apply only to notices requesting information made under subsection 46(1).

The Guidelines do not limit the scope of the information gathering authority nor do they restrict the Minister's discretion in exercising the authority in subsection 46(1). They are intended to improve the consistency and effectiveness of the information gathering process done under section 46 authorities.

To achieve that end, the objectives of the Guidelines are:

  • to outline the procedure for determining whether a notice is necessary;
  • to improve efficiency in acquiring information and to better coordinate information requests within Environment Canada, throughout the federal government and with provincial, territorial and Aboriginal governments; and,
  • to ensure that all notices issued provide clear explanations of what information is required, the reason for the request, an explanation of the manner in which the information will be used and include all mandatory information.

The Guidelines are divided into two sections. Section 1 deals with information related to topics other than those associated with the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) program. Section 2 deals with information gathering related to the NPRI program. This separation is as a result of the manner in which information is collected.

To obtain a copy of this document, contact Patricia MacLellan.

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