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Part II: Canada's Draft National Action Plan on Unintentionally Produced Persistent Organic Pollutants

4. Laws and Policies

The efficacy of Canada's programs on toxics is founded on federal, provincial and territorial legislation and policies for the protection of the environment and human health and public transparency. The principal legislation and policies in the context of the National Action Plan are described in the following section.

In Canada, protection of the environment is a responsibility shared by all levels of government (federal, aboriginal, provincial/territorial, regional, municipal), as well as by industry, organized labour groups and individuals. Canadian laws and policies provide the necessary framework to develop and implement strategies to reduce and eliminate unintentionally produced POPs.

4.1 Legislation

4.1.1 Environmental Legislation of the Canadian Government

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) is the key legislation used by the Canadian government to protect the environment and human health. The Act embodies a number of fundamental concepts including the precautionary principle; pollution prevention; the control and management of risks from the use and release of toxic substances, pollutants and wastes; and the virtual elimination of toxic substances that are persistent and bioaccumulative, and result primarily from anthropogenic activity. In addition to conventional regulatory instruments, this legislation provides new instruments for the management of toxic substances. These include: environmental objectives, guidelines and codes of practice; agreements (e.g., administrative, equivalency, federal/provincial/territorial); pollution prevention plans; and environmental emergency plans.

The administration of this piece of legislation must be reviewed by Parliament every five years.

This Act is the statutory basis for federal actions on unintentionally produced POPs, which were listed as CEPA toxic substances on the following dates:

  • Dioxins and furans in 199235;
  • PCBs in 198836; and
  • HCB in 2000.

The Compliance and Enforcement Policy for the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, March 2001, ensures environmental laws are adhered to and that compliance and enforcement actions of government are fairly applied.

In addition to CEPA 1999, there is also the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) which provides the legal basis for the federal environmental assessment process. CEAA sets out the responsibilities and procedures for carrying out the environmental assessments of projects which involve federal government decision making. The Act is founded on the following guiding principles:

  • to achieve sustainable development by promoting high quality environmental assessment;
  • to integrate environmental factors into planning and decision-making processes;
  • to anticipate and prevent degradation of environmental quality; and
  • to facilitate public participation in the environmental assessment of projects where the federal government is involved.

4.1.2 Environmental Legislation of the Provinces and Territories

Provinces and territories have legislation and regulations to manage air quality, toxic substances and pesticides. Most provinces and territories have legislation protecting the environment, with regulations that establish permitting or approvals systems for stationary point sources that discharge pollutants to the atmosphere. Most provinces and territories have environmental assessment processes which provide the means to integrate environmental factors into project planning and decision-making.

In nearly all provinces and territories, legislation or regulations require the owners/operators of industrial facilities to obtain operating permits or approvals which can contain emission limits or requirements for any atmospheric pollutant, including hazardous air pollutants. Some provinces, such as Manitoba, list the types of facilities required to have permits or approvals, while others, such as Saskatchewan, impose a general requirement and then list the types of industries excluded from it.

Two basic approaches are used to establish the limits and requirements in permits or approvals - dispersion modeling to estimate levels of pollutants emitted by the facility in the environment and technological and/or process requirements. Most provinces use a combination of these approaches. In most cases, permits or approvals are issued for a set length of time and must then be renewed. For new facilities, most provinces and territories now require 'best available control technology', or similar requirements.

4.2 Policies

In 1995, the Government of Canada adopted the Toxic Substances Management Policy (TSMP).

The Policy has two key management objectives:

  • virtual elimination from the environment of toxic substances that result predominantly from human activity and that are persistent and bioaccumulative (Track 1 substances); and
  • management of other toxic substances and substances of concern, throughout their entire life cycles, to prevent or minimize their release into the environment (Track 2 substances).

This Policy puts forward a preventive and precautionary approach to deal with substances that enter the environment and could harm the environment or human health.

In 1998, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) adopted a parallel Policy for the Management of Toxic Substances that establishes an integrated, cooperative and concerted approach for the management of toxic substances. Under this Policy, toxic substances that are persistent and bioaccumulative and that result primarily from human activity (Track 1 substances) are considered to pose an unreasonable and otherwise unmanageable risk to the environment and human health and are targeted for virtual elimination from the environment.

The above policies have established a unified, national approach for the management of toxic substances that are persistent, bioaccumulative, and result primarily from human activity, namely, virtual elimination.

Virtual elimination from the environment of Track 1 substances will be based on strategies to prevent the measurable release of the substance into the environment. While socio-economic factors have no bearing in setting the ultimate objective for Track 1 substances (virtual elimination from the environment), such factors will be taken into account when determining interim targets, appropriate management strategies and timelines for implementation.

Measurable release limits will be developed as appropriate for a Track 1 substance to allow verification that no measurable release has been achieved. These limits will be established in relation to the lowest concentration of a substance that can be accurately detected and quantified using sensitive but routine analytical methods (level of quantification). Levels of quantification have been identified for dioxins/furans in various media, and are presented in the table below. Levels of quantification for HCB and PCB are in varying stages of development and consideration.

SubstanceLevel of Quantification
Gaseous ReleasesLiquidsSoil
PCDD/PCDF32 pg ITEQ/m320 pg ITEQ/L*9 pg ITEQ/g

* Provisional LoQ for PCDD/PCDF in liquids.

The anticipated results from implementation of the TSMPmay be depicted as shown in Figure 4-1.

Figure 4-1: Anticipated Results from Application of the Toxic Substances Management Strategy
Figure 4-1 is a graph showing a trend of decreasing (unquantified) levels  of concentrations of a substance over time to reach levels below the level of quantification


35 Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, Status of Activities Related to Dioxins and Furans Canada-Wide Standards, Dioxins and Furans Canada-Wide Standards Development Committee, February 2003

36 PCBs were never manufactured in Canada. In Canada, PCBs were the first substances to be regulated under the Environmental Contaminants Act (1976). Their use as a constituent in new products manufactured in or imported to Canada was prohibited by Chlorobiphenyl Regulations No. 1 (1977) and subsequent amendments. CEPA replaced the Environmental Contaminants Act. PCBs were included on the List of Toxic Substances when CEPA was first proclaimed in force in 1988.

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