Ecojustice Case – Healthy communities Case Status: In Progress

Working to bring CEPA into the 21st century

Dr. Elaine MacDonaldScientist
Environmental DefenceClient
David Suzuki FoundationClient
MakeWay LogoMakeWayClient
PFAS foam in Great Lakes
PFAS Foam in Van Ettan Lake in Oscoda by Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy via Flickr

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) is now more than 20 years old and long overdue for an update. 

CEPA is Canada’s cornerstone law for protecting human health and the environment from pollution and toxic substances. But since CEPA was last overhauled a lot has changed. For example, Canadians have become increasingly exposed to toxics in our everyday lives through the items in our homes and the products we use, while scientific knowledge of risks has advanced. We need a modern law that protects our health and the people and places we care about from these harmful substances.

In 2016 and 2017, Ecojustice participated in a thorough review of CEPA undertaken by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development (ENVI), providing both oral testimony and written submissions.  Thanks in part to Ecojustice’s extensive contributions, the standing committee released a report in 2017 with 87 substantial recommendations to improve the Act and its implementation. In response to the report, the government agreed to update CEPA, and in 2019 the Prime Minister mandated the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to better protect people and the environment from toxins and other pollution by strengthening the Act. 

But the government has yet to introduce a bill to modernize this critical law

Ecojustice, along with our partners the David Suzuki Foundation and Environmental Defence (a fellow member of the Coalition for Action on Toxics), is now lobbying the federal government to update CEPA to protect all Canadians. The Coalition for Action on Toxics is a project on MakeWay’s shared platform, and includes Environmental Defence, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, and Equiterre). 

We need a 21st-century law to safeguard us, our families, and our communities from 21st-century threats. That means a law that:

  • Recognizes our right to a healthy environment and protects people who are inequitably impacted including frontline workers, women, children, the elderly and people living in pollution hotspots — such as some Indigenous communities·     
  • Bans dangerous chemicals such as BPA and unnecessary sources of pollution such as single-use plastics that pose a risk to human health or the environment 
  • Ensures harmful chemicals in consumer products such as toxic flame retardants are substituted with safer alternatives to bring an end the “toxic treadmill”
  • Addresses the cumulative health and environmental effects of pollution and toxic chemicals 
  • Mandates faster, more efficient regulatory timelines to reduce pollution releases and the use of toxic chemicals and plastics
  • Meaningfully informs and engages the public in decision-making on important environmental concerns

Why Ecojustice is involved:

CEPA is one of the key pieces of legislation that Ecojustice relies on when going to court to fight for a healthy environment for all Canadians. We use CEPA to demand the federal government regulate toxic substances and crackdown on polluters who put the health and security of Canadians at risk – such as recent litigation to force the federal government to lay charges against Volkswagen for its emissions-cheating.


What we want to see

Ecojustice wants to see a modern, fit-for-purpose CEPA. This means a 21st-century law that protects Canadians from 21st-century threats to our health and upholds our right to a healthy environment.

Build the case for a better earth

Thanks to the support of people like you, Ecojustice goes to court to protect what we value most — the air, land and water that sustains all life. Make your gift today and support bold litigation for a brighter environmental future.

Right to a Healthy Environment

December 15,2014

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