Frequently Asked Questions – Significant New Activity provisions under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999

The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below are meant to provide Canadians and businesses with basic information about the requirements under the Significant New Activity (SNAc) provisions of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999).

The Significant New Activity provisions under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999

  1. What is the purpose of these provisions?
  2. What are the key elements of these provisions?
  3. How do these provisions affect Canadian businesses?
  4. What is the timeline for implementation?
  5. Where can I get more information?

1. What is the purpose of these provisions?

The SNAc provisions are applied when a substance has been assessed and Environment Canada and/or Health Canada suspect that new activities may pose a risk to human health or the environment. The purpose of the SNAc provisions is to ensure that any risks from significant new activities undertaken in relation to a substance are assessed prior to the new activity being undertaken in Canada.

A significant new activity can include an activity conducted with a substance in a different quantity, concentration or in different circumstances that could affect the environmental or human exposure to the substance.

2.  What are the key elements of these provisions?

The SNAc provisions trigger an obligation for a person (individual or corporation) proposing to use, import or manufacture a substance for a significant new activity to submit prescribed information to the Government of Canada. The Government then assesses the substance in relation to the proposed new activity for potential risks to human health or the environment. If risks are identified, the Government may impose measures to manage them.

The information to be submitted is specific to each substance and is found in the relevant SNAc Notice or Order published in the Canada Gazette. The information may include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • the quantity of the substance that will be imported, used or manufactured;
  • information regarding the intended use and potential releases of the substance, including information concerning processing, handling and disposal of the substance; and/or
  • technical and scientific data in relation to the substance (e.g., physical-chemical properties and toxicity).

A searchable Comprehensive List of Substances that are Subject to the Significant New Activity Provisions  is available. Please consult the Canada Gazette for the official SNAc Notices and Orders.

3. How do these provisions affect Canadian businesses?

Any person (individual or corporation) wishing to undertake an activity involving the use, import or manufacture of a substance that is subject to the SNAc provisions must provide the Government with specific information prior to using, importing or manufacturing the substance for a significant new activity. A significant new activity for a given substance is defined in the corresponding SNAc Notice or Order published in the Canada Gazette. The information provided will be assessed by the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Health, within the time period indicated in the Canada Gazette publication (typically 90, 120 or 180 days), to determine whether the substance could pose a risk to the environment or human health.

If the assessment of the substance in relation to the proposed new activity identifies a potential risk to human health or the environment, risk management measures may be imposed, and the notifier must comply with those measures.

Notifiers are not required to pay a fee when submitting information to the Government of Canada in compliance with the SNAc provisions.

4. What is the timeline for implementation?

The specific SNAc Notice or Order published in the Canada Gazette will indicate when the SNAc comes into force and what the definition of a significant new activity is in relation to the substance. The published Notice or Order will also indicate the information to be provided, when the information needs to be submitted, as well as how long the Government has to assess the information.

5. Where can I get more information?

More information on the SNAc provisions can be found on Environment Canada’s Significant New Activity Provisions under CEPA 1999 webpage, or by contacting:

The Substances Management Information Line at substances@ec.gc.ca,
1-800-567-1999 (toll free in Canada), or 819-938-3232 (outside of Canada).

This document is intended to provide contextual information on the Significant New Activity provisions. It does not replace the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 or the Canada Gazette publication. In the event of any inconsistencies, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 and the Canada Gazette publication shall prevail.

For more information

To learn about upcoming or ongoing consultations on proposed federal regulations, visit the Canada Gazette and Consulting with Canadians websites.

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