Implementation of the federal Environmental Enforcement Act (the "EEA"), first passed in June 2009, has recently begun. The EEA amends the enforcement and penalty regimes of nine federal environmental acts by introducing stiffer fines, new sentencing powers and considerations, and measures aimed at strengthening the government's ability to investigate and prosecute violations. The EEA is also intended, in part, to make the environmental enforcement regimes more consistent across all federal legislation, particularly on the matter of director and officer liability. Specifically, the EEA increases maximum fine amounts and establishes minimum fines for certain offences, establishes the liability of corporate directors and officers, and provides sentencing guidance for courts by establishing principles and purposes of sentencing and by identifying relevant factors, such as prior convictions, that should be taken into account when determining sentence. The EEA also directs fines to the Environmental Damages Fund which funds community organizations in environmental restoration and research projects.

All of these amendments are now in force for the following acts:

  • Antarctic Environmental Protection Act;  
  • Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act;  
  • Canada National Parks Act;  
  • International River Improvements Act; and  
  • Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park Act.  

Furthermore, the provisions regarding sentencing consideration factors are also in force for the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 ("CEPA"). The provisions relating to penalties are expected to come into force for CEPA this year. The provisions affecting the remaining acts, the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994, the Canada Wildlife Act, and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act, are expected to come into force in 2012.

The EEA also established the Environmental Violations Administrative Monetary Penalties Act, which creates an administrative monetary penalties program for less serious environmental offences. The Environmental Violations Administrative Monetary Penalties Act came into force in December, 2010, however, it is not yet operational as the related regulations are not in place and are not expected until mid 2012.

For more information on the EEA, see the Ministry Backgrounder here.