Bill S-5 – What you need to know
On June 13, Bill S-5, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act, received Royal Assent. These amendments represent Canada’s commitment to environmental protection and are the first comprehensive overhaul of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) since its inception in 1999. These changes are likely to have considerable effects on stakeholders in industries that utilize substances deemed toxic or that have the potential to be deemed as such.
- CEPA recognizes every Canadian’s right to a healthy environment.
- Increased regulation of toxic substances listed under Part 1 of Schedule 1, which are substances categorized as posing the greatest risk, and are prohibited.
- Section 64 of CEPA sets out the general criteria used to determine whether a substance is considered toxic. Whether a toxic substance will be listed under Part 1 of Schedule 1 is determined by section 77 of CEPA and the regulations, including the Persistence and Bioaccumulation Regulations.
- Once the Minister has conducted an assessment of a substance, they must publish in the Canada Gazette their proposed action and the scientific basis of the action. Within 60 days, any person may file with the Minister written comments regarding the proposed action. The Minister must take these comments into consideration and publish their final decision.
- The development and implementation of a new Plan of Chemicals Management Priorities. The goal of this plan is to better assess and understand chemicals that are deemed to be of concern.
- The implementation of a Watch List which will provide a list of chemicals that may pose a risk in the future if usage increases or changes. The purpose of this list is to assist importers, manufacturers and consumers in selecting safer alternatives.
Insurers, manufacturers, and distributors of hazardous substances, including “forever chemicals”, need to be mindful of these changes to CEPA . The continued use of these chemicals, and chemicals that may be placed on the Watch List may present certain risks.
In recent years a number of claims related to the environmental and health effects of hazardous materials have been pursued. The changes brought by Bill S-5 and the new mandate to protect the right to a healthy environment, may give rise to further claims. Stakeholders in effected industries should be proactive about these potential issues to minimize their risk.
Written by Mario Delgado with contribution from articling student Priya Parihar.