Ottawa, ON – A broad coalition of environmental, health and civil society groups are applauding a new parliamentary report recommending significant improvements to Canada’s outdated pollution prevention and toxics law. A majority report from the federal House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development recommended these changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) in its report tabled today.

Almost two decades after CEPA last received major revisions, this report, which contains 87 recommendations, confirms that it is time to reform Canada’s most important environmental legislation.

“For years, Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast have called for stronger laws to protect them from toxic chemicals and tackle environmental pollution,” said Tim Gray, Executive Director of Environmental Defence. “Canada’s laws are now significantly weaker than those in Europe and the U.S. when it comes to regulating toxic chemicals. The report’s recommendations provide a strong foundation to finally ensure strong protections of human health and ecosystems.”

The groups applaud the committee’s inclusion of the priority recommendations proposed by the environmental and health communities, and endorsed by 22 professional associations, experts/scientists, health agencies and businesses (see the full list).

“The committee has made clear that the law must be strengthened to better protect children, pregnant women, the elderly, and vulnerable and historically disadvantaged communities from the harmful effects of pollution and toxic chemicals,” said Elaine MacDonald, Healthy Communities Director with Ecojustice. “The committee’s strong recommendation that the Canadian Environmental Protection Act recognize and fulfill every person’s right to a healthy environment is another encouraging and exciting development.” 

In the report, the committee also proposes to improve protections from chemicals of high concern—like certain phthalates or potentially BPA—by requiring industry to prove safety before use. Unlike in the European Union, Canada’s current law does not require producers to scientifically justify the use of certain highly toxic chemicals.

“The fact that research links many hormone-related cancers and other chronic illnesses to toxic chemical exposures from consumer products is very alarming,” said Kim Perrotta, Executive Director with the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. “Unless the industry can prove that the use of certain toxic chemicals poses no risk and has no less-toxic substitutes, these chemicals should be prohibited.”

In addition, the committee’s majority report acknowledges the need for stronger measures to address the risk of long-term and continuous exposures to toxic chemicals and tighter timelines for regulatory action.

“Scientists and experts have long warned about the cost of cumulative exposure to toxic chemicals in terms of human health and the threat to our environment,” said Annie Bérubé, Director of Government Relations with Équiterre. “It is vital that the recommendations proposed by the committee are reflected in a strong government bill to revise CEPA.”

After the committee tabled its report, the government will publish a response addressing the committee’s recommendations within 120 days.

“Everyone in Canada should have the right to live in a healthy environment. Fresh air, clean water and functioning ecosystems are basic necessities of life,” said Peter Robinson, CEO of the David Suzuki Foundation. “We welcome the committee’s recommendations for upgrading CEPA to recognize environmental rights, protect vulnerable populations, and strengthen the legal framework for environmental protection.”

The groups continue to urge the government to adopt the recommendations of the committee and propose legislative amendments to achieve the sorely-needed improvements that will guarantee health and environmental protections from toxics.

This is a joint release from Environmental DefenceEcojustice, ÉquiterreCanadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, and the David Suzuki Foundation.

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