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A Guide to Understanding the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999

1. Introduction

This Guide explains the key features of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999). CEPA 1999 is an important part of Canada's federal environmental legislation aimed at preventing pollution and protecting the environment and human health. The goal of CEPA 1999 is to contribute to sustainable development - development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

CEPA 1999 came into force on March 31, 2000 following an extensive Parliamentary review of the former CEPA. CEPA 1999 contains significant improvements for the protection of the environment over the former Act. It:

  • makes pollution prevention the cornerstone of national efforts to reduce toxic substances in the environment;

  • sets out processes to assess the risks to the environment and human health posed by substances in commerce;

  • imposes timeframes for managing toxic substances;

  • provides a wide range of tools to manage toxic substances, other pollution and wastes;

  • ensures the most harmful substances are phased out or not released into the environment in any measurable quantity;

  • includes new provisions to regulate vehicle, engine and equipment emissions;

  • strengthens enforcement of the Act and its regulations;

  • encourages greater citizen input into decision-making; and

  • allows for more effective cooperation and partnership with other governments and Aboriginal peoples.

This Guide describes CEPA 1999's:

  • role in environmental management in Canada;

  • objectives and guiding principles;

  • environmental protection management process; and

  • key programs aimed at protecting the environment and human health.

For further information on CEPA 1999, please refer to the list of contacts and sources in Appendix A and the various websites listed in Appendix B.