Bill S-5: Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) Amendments

In April 2022 the second reading of  Bill S-5, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act was completed. On June 9th, the Bill was reviewed by the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, and was sent to the full Senate for review.[1]  These amendments, projected to come into effect in two years, will impact Canada’s current environmental law framework.

The Bill seeks to introduce key amendments to Canada’s Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), our main environmental legislation. It includes creating a risk assessment Plan of Chemical Management Priorities, and a commitment to consider the cumulative effects of these assessments on vulnerable populations.[2]

The preamble of the Act recognizes that every individual in Canada has a right to a healthy environment. Section 2 of the Act requires that the government protect this right, and that an implementation framework is developed to consider how this right will be administered under the Act. The Plan of Chemical Management Priorities will set out a multi-year assessment of substances, activities, and initiatives that support chemical management. The Plan will further empower Ministers to consult with interested stakeholders, partners, Indigenous people, representatives of industry, municipal authorities, and other interested people in its implementation and development.

The preamble also recognizes the importance of minimizing the risks posed by cumulative effects of toxic substances, and the importance of considering vulnerable populations in risk assessments. It further confirms the government’s commitment to uphold its international obligations under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and a recognition of the government’s duty to protect the environment and human health of vulnerable populations.

Lawyers should remain aware of Bill S-5’s potential impact on environmental law. For a more detailed explanation of these amendments, visit the Government of Canada’s amendment summary here.

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[1] “S-5: An Act to amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, to make related amendments to the Food and Drugs Act and to repeal the Perfluorooctane Sulfonate Virtual Elimination Act” online: Parliament of Canada [https://www.parl.ca/legisinfo/en/bill/44-1/s-5].

[2] “Bill S-5, Strengthening Environmental Protection For A Healthy Canada Act – Summary of Amendments” online: Government of Canada [https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/pollution-waste-management/strengthening-canadian-environmental-protection-act-1999/bill-c-28-strengthening-environmental-protection-healthier-canada-act-summary-amendments.html].

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