All questions

Environmental protection

i Air quality

Federal, provincial and territorial governments each have general air emission assessment and reporting obligations: under CEPA, there is a National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI); provincially, there are programmes such as Ontario Regulation 419/05, which requires Emission Summary and Dispersion Modelling Reports. The NPRI is Canada's publicly accessible inventory of pollutants that have been released (into the air, water or land), disposed of or transferred for recycling. The NPRI requires owners and operators to report releases of substances that exceed certain quantities. Canada has also regulated certain industries and air pollutants separately, in order to address the complexities of each.

In 2012, the Ministers of the Environment (with the exception of Quebec) agreed to implement the Air Quality Management System (AQMS), which is a comprehensive approach to reducing air pollution by governments and stakeholders in Canada. The goals of the AQMS are accomplished in many ways; for example, the provinces and territories delineate air zones within their jurisdictions and agree to improve air quality and ensure the Canadian Ambient Air Quality Standards are met.

A growing number of municipalities have also implemented local air emissions by-laws. Pursuant to the City of Toronto Bylaw No. 1293-2008 (the Right to Know Bylaw), Toronto has created the ChemTRAC programme, designed to increase public awareness regarding chemicals and pollutants in the Toronto area by providing access to an interactive map of the city that allows residents to locate facilities in their neighbourhood that emit regulated substances. The Right to Know Bylaw requires small and large companies to report to Toronto Public Health each year that the facility emits certain substances that have been identified to be harmful to health and linked to cancer or lung problems. The Right to Know Bylaw obliges, for the first time, many small to medium-sized companies (such as printing companies, food and beverage manufacturers, etc.) to monitor their use and release of hazardous substances into the air and report any release to the public. The Right to Know Bylaw has a lower threshold for reporting the release of certain substances than provincial and federal legislation.

ii Water quality

In Canada, the federal government is responsible for fisheries, navigation, federal lands and international relations, including issues related to the management of boundary waters, and also is generally responsible for agriculture, health and the environment. Provinces and territories are also responsible for regulation of waterways within each respective jurisdiction and CEPA is thus intended to supplement and complement existing provincial regulations. In particular, CEPA regulates which substances may enter water in Canada to prevent deleterious effects to water. The federal government, under this authority, has also released a number of guidelines with respect to protecting water quality from certain substances. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the ECCC share responsibility for the conservation and protection of fish habitat and freshwater in Canada under the Fisheries Act. The DFO administers habitat protection, the prohibition against any work or undertaking that would cause the harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of a fish habitat. The ECCC oversees the prohibition against the depositing of deleterious substances into waters in Canada without authorisation.

Provincial and territorial legislation plays a key role in protection of water quality in Canada. The Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA) also makes it an offence to discharge any materials into water that impair the quality of the water, with reporting requirements for the same. The goals of the OWRA are furthered by the Ontario EPA, which sets out specific effluent limit regulations in certain sectors, including: petroleum, pulp and paper, industrial minerals, metal casting, metal mining, organic chemical manufacturing, inorganic chemical manufacturing, iron and steel, and electric power.

Ontario, in particular, has enacted fulsome legislation for the protection of water quality in the province. Ontario has pledged to protect and restore the ecological health of Ontario's Great Lakes in the Great Lakes Protection Act 2015, in order to follow through on its Great Lakes Strategy. The Great Lakes Nutrient Initiative of the ECCC will provide funding to address algae growth in the Great Lakes and advance scientific research into the causes of algae. In addition to other national efforts, Canada and the United States entered into a Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, which was most recently amended in 2012, wherein both parties agree to take steps to restore and protect the water quality and health of the ecosystems of the Great Lakes.

iii Chemicals

There have been considerable regulatory developments under the ECCC's Chemical Management Plan (CMP), since its inception in 2006, including requirements for surveys, substance reassessments and permits. Monitoring and surveillance initiatives are central to the CMP and involve the collection of chemical, physical and biological data to detect and characterise environmental change. Environmental monitoring and surveillance initiatives include national monitoring programmes for landfills and concentrations of chemicals in the environment. Human surveillance and monitoring include obtaining information to focus research on areas with respect to determining baseline levels of chemicals that exist in Canadian citizens and corresponding health risks, trends in exposure, evaluation of under-studied substances, and assessment of the effectiveness of health and environmental efforts.

Pursuant to the CMP, risk assessments of new substances and existing substances on the Domestic Substances List (DSL) are being undertaken to determine whether a substance is toxic and thus poses a risk to human health or the environment and to impose restrictions upon its use as necessary. CEPA provides the definition of toxic substances, which includes substances that may have immediate or long-term harmful effects or pose a danger to the environment or human health. Restrictions upon the use of DSL substances have been expanding significantly as part of the CMP's reassessment of existing chemicals. Some substances on the DSL, used in 'significant new activities', are also subject to notification requirements.

Transport Canada oversees the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations (the TDG Regulations), which maintain nine classes of dangerous goods, namely explosives; gases; flammable liquids; flammable solids; oxidising substances and organic peroxides; toxic and infectious substances; radioactive materials; corrosive substances; and miscellaneous products, substances or organisms. In addition to the classifications, certain dangerous goods are further assigned one of three hazard levels that are intended to show when a substance is particularly hazardous. The TDG Regulations also set out specific requirements with respect to documentation and signage with respect to the dangerous goods. Among others, the TDG Regulations require that transporters of dangerous goods have a shipping document with respect to the dangerous goods that are being transported, which must contain certain information and have an Emergency Response Assistance Plan. It is also the responsibility of the transporters to ensure that there are adequate safety markings displayed that make it clear that dangerous goods are being transported, with immediate reporting requirements upon any release of a substance.

iv Solid and hazardous waste and waste diversion

In Canada, federal jurisdiction over waste is very limited and generally restricted to certain categories of toxic and hazardous waste, while provinces and territories may make regulations for all other wastes. Under the Ontario EPA, a certificate of approval is required for a waste management or waste disposal site and it is prohibited to deposit waste in land that is not a waste disposal site. Waste generation is, where consistent with the Ontario EPA more generally, subject to registration but not to permit requirements.

In 2009, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment approved an action plan for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which was intended to create a harmonised approach by the provinces to waste management in Canada. By making producers responsible for the end-of-life management of products, the responsibility and costs associated with these products at end-of-life is shifted from governments and consumers, to producers and thus there is an intended financial incentive for producers to use environmentally friendly packaging. While the intent of EPR is to create a harmonised approach, provinces still have autonomy to determine how to implement the principles of EPR with respect to different kinds of waste. Corporations will need to be aware of costs associated with end-of-life management of products and the particular legislative framework in its jurisdiction.

In June 2016, the Ontario government introduced a unique waste diversion initiative, which came into effect in 2017. The Waste-Free Ontario Act enacted the RRCEA and the Waste Diversion Transition Act. More recently, the Tire Regulation was issued under the RRCEA and similar product-specific regulations are set to be in force for electronics and municipal hazardous waste by 2020. This new regime aims to shift to a 'circular economy' to increase resource recovery and diminish waste and is the first of its kind in North America in that manufacturers, importers and brand owners are now directly responsible for diverting the waste created by their products and packaging.

v Contaminated land

Provincial and territorial legislation, such as the Ontario EPA, provides for the cleanup and redevelopment of underused industrial and commercial brownfields. If a brownfield property is being redeveloped, property owners must meet requirements with respect to assessing the environmental condition of the property where seeking a record of site condition. Ontario has recently released a set of draft guidelines to help proponents of projects consider climate change when completing an environmental assessment. The draft guideline suggests that project proponents consider the emissions of the project, the potential effect on the capacity of the surrounding environment to remove carbon dioxide from the area, and sets out general steps and questions to consider.