On March 4, 2009, Federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice introduced new legislation aimed at increasing fines for environmental offences and strengthening the government’s ability to investigate and prosecute environmental violations. In addition to the changes proposed by the new legislation, Environment Canada is planning on increasing its number of enforcement officers and strengthening its enforcement regime through the provision of better laboratory service, technical expertise, and expert witnesses.
Bill C-16, An Act to amend certain Acts that relate to the environment and to enact provisions respecting the enforcement of certain Acts that relate to the environment, which received first reading on March 5, 2009, amends the following nine federal Acts:
- The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999;
- The Canada Wildlife Act;
- The Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994;
- The Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act;
- The Antarctic Environmental Protection Act;
- The International River Improvements Act;
- The Canada National Parks Act;
- The Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act;
- The Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park Act.
Bill C-16 also proposes the following changes to the above-listed Acts:
- Raising maximum fines and introducing minimum fines for serious environmental offences under these Acts, for both individuals and corporations. Proposed minimum fines for corporations who commit serious offences range between $25,000 and $6 million.
- Directing that fines imposed by courts for offences under these Acts be deposited into an Environmental Damages Fund that provides funding to local environmental improvement initiatives.
- Adding a new clause to each Act that sets out the fundamental purpose of sentencing and identifies factors the courts need to consider in sentencing. Aggravating factors would include prior convictions, the occurrence of environmental damage, intentionally or recklessly committing an offence, benefiting financially from the offence, and attempting to conceal the offence after it was committed.
- Creating a public registry of corporate offenders.
- Granting authority for the development an administrative monetary penalties regime under these Acts for less serious violations of environmental laws.