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Results: 1 - 15 of 220
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Honourable members, thank you for the invitation to discuss Bill S-5, the Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act, which proposes amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.
To begin, I'd like to acknowledge that we are on the ancestral lands of first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, either physically or virtually. These aren't just words; it's an essential recognition as we work every day to build new relationships with indigenous peoples.
The bill you have before you strengthens the act in two key areas: It recognizes a right to a healthy environment, as provided under CEPA, and it strengthens the management of chemicals and other substances.
When I presented my opening remarks to the Senate committee this past spring, I invited senators to study and seek ways to improve the bill. I thank the Senate for its important work and repeat this offer to members of the House of Commons.
The government supports many of the Senate's amendments and will propose that some be modified so they are more workable. There are a few, which I will return to later, that are not in keeping with the principles of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act or are premature, in light of ongoing consultations.
Let's begin with the issue of recognizing a right to a healthy environment as provided under CEPA.
This bill is the first time that a right to a healthy environment will be recognized in a federal statute.
The bill also includes a number of requirements to ensure this right is meaningful and taken into account when decisions are made under CEPA. It requires the government to develop, within two years, an implementation framework describing how this right will be considered in the administration of the act. This framework will explain, among other things, how principles of environmental justice, non-regression and intergenerational equity will be considered under CEPA.
Canadians will have an opportunity to participate in the development of the framework. The minister must report annually to Parliament on the framework's implementation.
The framework will define a thoughtful, meaningful and evolving approach to the right to a healthy environment. The implementation framework will clarify the right to a healthy environment lens for all programs under CEPA, including the clean air agenda and the chemicals management program.
Amendments related to the right include confirmation of the government's commitment to implement the United Nations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the importance of considering vulnerable populations and cumulative effects in risk assessment.
The bill will also require research, studies or monitoring to support the protection of this right. These new research requirements could help address, for example, the need for information about how pollution affects some groups of people or communities more than others.
These changes build on a robust regime of procedural rights in CEPA that provide for public participation, investigation of offences and environmental protection actions. CEPA has requirements to publish information and maintain the CEPA online registry, which we continuously improve. It allows anyone to ask for the investigation of an alleged offence.
If the request is not dealt with in a reasonable manner, the person can bring an environmental protection action in the courts to enforce compliance. As well, any person who has suffered loss or damage as a result of a contravention of CEPA can bring a civil action to recover those damages.
The bill provides the public with more ways to participate in the decision-making process, making it more transparent and accessible. For instance, there will be opportunities to participate in developing the implementation framework and the Plan of Chemicals Management Priorities. The bill adds a mechanism for the public to request an assessment and strengthens the list of substances that can reasonably be considered toxic if their use changes.
The second set of key changes proposed in this bill relates to the modernization of chemicals—
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
Do I need to repeat part of my remarks?
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you.
The second set of key changes proposed in this bill relates to the modernization of chemicals management. Canada is recognized as a world leader, being the first and only country to have categorized and prioritized for assessment all of the substances that were in commerce in our economy at the time the original CEPA was enacted in 1988. By the end of 2022, the government will have completed the assessments for almost all—98.5%—of the 4,636 substances that were identified as priorities when the chemicals management plan was launched in 2006. This is progress.
Now we need a new process.
Bill S-5 requires the government to consult and to produce a new plan for chemicals management priorities. This will show Canadians a multi-year plan for assessing substances in the future. It would also describe the activities, such as research and monitoring, to better support that effort.
The bill sets out a new regime for substances of highest risk. These include persistent and bioaccumulative substances, as well as certain carcinogens, mutagens and substances that are toxic to reproduction. When considering how to manage such substances, the bill requires that priority be given to prohibiting them. The Senate made improvements to these provisions; in my view, modest changes to the Senate amendments would make this regime even more effective.
I think we can all agree on the importance of acting quickly in assessing and managing those risks. CEPA already prescribes timelines, often referred to as the CEPA “time clock”. The government must propose a risk management instrument for addition to schedule 1 within two years after the substance has been proposed and finalize that instrument within a further 18 months. Bill S-5 proposes to go further and adds a requirement for the government to communicate the timelines for subsequent risk management instruments.
The bill also adds a watch-list as a tool to improve transparency by consolidating a list of substances whose inherent properties are of concern, but whose current use does not pose a risk that needs to be managed. There will be consultation on the criteria for adding and removing substances. This work will begin once the bill is in force.
Continuing with the theme of transparency, note that confidential business information was discussed a great deal. Bill S‑5 includes more requirements to improve transparency. I would, however, insist on the need to maintain the right balance between transparency and protection of Canadian business interests, which the bill delivers.
Finally, the bill now includes substantive requirements to accelerate efforts to replace, reduce and refine animal testing. The three Rs are ordered to reflect that the priority is to replace animal testing, with the aim of eliminating it as soon as feasible and scientifically justified alternative methods are available. The government is committed to promoting non-animal test methods and will engage with stakeholders and experts to provide advice on this issue.
CEPA hasn’t been significantly updated for 20 years. I say again that this is not our final effort to modernize CEPA.
While the legislative reform takes place, the government is undertaking several activities to tackle several issues linked to CEPA.
Over the last year, we held two consultations on labelling. The first sought to determine which measures could improve supply chain transparency. Consultations ended earlier this fall, which led to last month’s publication of a notice of intent for labelling toxic substances in consumer products. The results of both initiatives support a broader strategy, which we will publish in 2023.
The Senate also commented on the transparency of assessments of new living organisms. As such, the Government of Canada launched consultations in October 2022. These consultations will examine how the new substances notification regulations could make the risk assessment and regulatory decision-making process more transparent, while encouraging the development of biotechnology innovations that benefit Canadians.
The Senate made amendments creating a requirement to determine the need for new organisms. This proposed approach would be near impossible to implement.
The results of these consultations will feed into our improvement to the regime for new organisms and our government's approach to labelling. Nevertheless, I understand that these are matters of interest to you, and I will listen to your deliberations to inform the regulatory actions that will follow our consultations. I call on you to maintain the enabling and risk-based nature of the legislation that has made Canada a leader in chemicals management in the world.
Fellow members, I am counting on your support to enact this bill and ensure that the government has all the required tools to better protect all Canadians’ health and environment.
The work doesn’t stop here. Once the bill passes, we will launch regulatory and implementation initiatives, which include developing the implementation framework for the right to a healthy environment, the priority substances plan and regulations on high-risk substances. Furthermore, we will proceed with a review of other potential legislative changes to CEPA to ensure it remains relevant in the context of today’s challenges.
Thank you very much.
I will be pleased to answer your questions.
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
First of all, thank you for your kind words, sir. It is a pleasure to work with you and to have you as minister of the shadow cabinet, or rather, opposition critic, as you so eloquently put it.
To quickly answer your question, I would say that the concept of a vulnerable environment would indeed be difficult to define. However, the concept of a vulnerable population is much easier to define, in our opinion. There is a vast body of scientific literature on the issue of pollution exposure. A great deal of data demonstrates that certain populations, be they in Canada or elsewhere, are more exposed to pollution than the rest of the population, for all kinds of reasons, some geographic, some socioeconomic.
There is therefore a distinction to be made between the concepts of a vulnerable environment and a vulnerable population. I agree with you to say that one of these concepts is harder to define. But the other can be defined a great deal more easily.
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
As I was saying, the concept of a vulnerable population is increasingly shaped by scientific literature on environmental health and environmental impact assessments.
Over the last several years, we have reformed the environmental assessment process in Canada to make it both more transparent and more predictable. Earlier, you mentioned the Bay du Nord project. The decision about the project was not easy for me, especially on a personal level, but also on a professional level. Nevertheless, this decision was made within legislated timelines.
I think that we can chew gum, walk and maybe even text at the same time. We then have to make sure that introducing the concept of a vulnerable population does not slow down the environmental assessment process and, ultimately, the approval of certain projects.
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
As I said, we’re still reviewing many amendments passed in the Senate. In several cases, they are not a problem for us. In other cases, we will probably want to change the proposals to make them easier to implement. We certainly want to be sure that nothing is duplicated and that the process doesn’t lead to excessively burdensome administration. However, as you said so well, it will have to remain a rigorous process. That is the balance we are trying to strike.
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you very much, MP Thompson.
As I said earlier, it is the first time that we would include this under Canadian statutes, specifically in CEPA. We're not the first jurisdiction in the world to do that. It's not something that has been done a lot around the world. We're not the first, but we're certainly among the first to do that.
The meaning of the “right to a healthy environment” will be elaborated through the implementation framework. This framework will be developed within two years from the date of royal assent, based on consultation with Canadians: Canadian experts, non-governmental organizations, provinces and territories and indigenous partners, as well as the private sector. The implementation framework would set up how the right to a healthy environment would be considered in the administration of the act.
The framework would also elaborate on principles such as environmental justice, meaning avoiding adverse effects that disproportionately affect vulnerable populations, and issues of “non-regression”, for continuous improvement of environmental protection.
The Senate amendment on Bill S-5 requires that the implementation framework also elaborate on the principle of intergenerational equity, the reasonable limits to which the right is subject and mechanisms to support the protection of this right.
Basically, applying the lens of a right to a healthy environment would support and encourage strong environmental and health standards now and going into the future, robust engagement with Canadians and new thinking about how to protect populations that are particularly vulnerable to environmental and health risks.
As I was telling your colleague MP Deltell earlier, and as you well know, the scientific knowledge on these issues is in constant evolution, so I think what we're trying to do is build in a process whereby our regulations can evolve as well.
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
Yes. Thank you for the question.
We already have existing mechanisms under CEPA, which would continue to be available to individuals to address concerns regarding environmental harm. CEPA, under part 2, has a robust regime relating to public participation, investigation of offences and environmental protection actions. There are also actions to prevent or compensate loss that could arise from conduct that contravenes the act—for example, against a defendant causing environmental harm.
The recognition of a right to a healthy environment will establish a new lens for decision-making under CEPA, which will ensure there is a continual progressive improvement in protecting all Canadians and the environment.
The meaning of the right and how it will be considered in the administration of the act will be developed through the consultation, as I said earlier, but we will continue using the mechanisms under CEPA to enforce this right.
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you.
As I said earlier, vulnerable populations, and including racialized communities, may be disproportionately exposed to or negatively impacted by harmful substances due to factors such as health status, socio-economic status, geography and cultural practices.
In order to address these issues, it is important to understand actual exposure from multiple substances from different sources, to which Canadians are exposed daily. As introduced, Bill S-5 proposed amendments to CEPA that would require the government to consider vulnerable populations and cumulative effects when assessing risks where information is available.
Senate amendments added a requirement to consider vulnerable environments. Gathering authorities under CEPA would allow the government to obtain information on vulnerable populations and cumulative effects if additional information is needed to inform risk assessment.
Amendments to CEPA would also require the government to conduct research in biomonitoring, which may relate to vulnerable populations. Research in biomonitoring would facilitate generating additional data on how exposure to harmful substances impacts vulnerable populations.
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you very much for the question, Ms. Pauzé.
I’m very happy to be here with you today, even though COP15 is imminent.
As I said in my opening remarks, including this right in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act is a first. I think the fact that it’s included in the preamble takes nothing away from the scope of this right. As I was saying to your colleague, Ms. Thompson, all of the tools available under the Act will serve to implement this right.
Once the bill passes, we will allow a two-year period to really hammer out its implementation. That’s not at all unusual. The bill defines the scope, and then regulations define its implementation or execution. It’s not unusual to proceed this way.
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
Ms. Pauzé, the public will truly have the right to a healthy environment once Bill S‑5 is passed. Let me reiterate that all the tools currently in the CEPA will serve to implement the right to a healthy environment.
In my opinion, the amendments you and, in some cases, the Senate, proposed allow for a number of significant improvements. Earlier, we talked about vulnerable populations with your colleague Ms. Thompson. That is an extremely important improvement to environmental law in Canada.
I said it earlier and let me reiterate it now: we are entirely prepared to examine all the amendments that you and your colleagues propose to make the bill as effective as possible.
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
I think the Senate has heard from a number of those organizations. I imagine that you have before you, as do I, the list of all the organizations and individuals heard by the Senate. It appears the timelines are different for the House, for procedural reasons. Honestly, I think the Senate took its time making these amendments...
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
As I said earlier to MP Pauzé, this is a first iteration in the modernization of CEPA that we want to do, but there are other amendments we would want to bring forward further down the road. I thought that trying to change everything that needed to be changed after 20 years in one bill would be a very perilous operation. Proceeding in stages is more prudent.
As you know, we are in that process. We've held joint consultations on labelling with Health Canada—
View Steven Guilbeault Profile
Lib. (QC)
We're doing just that, but if you have specific amendments you would like to see brought forward on this particular element, my team and I, and Environment and Climate Change Canada, will be happy to consider them.
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