“Healthy, clean, and just. When it comes to protecting the environment and human health from pollution, society sees these priorities as government responsibilities and expects us to have the tools in place to act when required.

“Thanks to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA), one of Canada’s core environmental laws, we are able to address pollution from a wide range of sources such as chemicals, hazardous waste and environmental emergencies.

“From reducing air pollution and banning asbestos to keeping microbeads out of our waters, CEPA has done a lot to help us protect the health of Canadians and the environment from pollution.

“Yet CEPA hasn’t been significantly updated since its inception in 1999. Science has evolved significantly in the past 24 years.

“We need our laws to keep up. We need to update CEPA.

“That’s why, last February, the Government of Canada proposed to modernize CEPA when it introduced Bill S-5 in Parliament. Bill S-5 aims to strengthen the management of chemicals and other substances to ensure that we have the best possible tools to protect the health of Canadians and their environment. It also proposes, for the first time in a federal statute in Canada, to recognize that every individual in Canada has a right to a healthy environment as provided under CEPA.

“Canada is already a world leader in chemicals management. Our proposed improvements to CEPA would strengthen an already strong law. They seek to ensure more transparency and oversight. They would require the Government to consult and to produce a new plan for chemicals management priorities. They seek to ensure that we identify and take strong action to prevent pollution from substances of highest risk. And they would accelerate efforts to replace, reduce and refine animal testing.

“The Bill would also require decision makers to take the right to a healthy environment into account when decisions are made under CEPA.

“The work doesn’t stop here. The Government of Canada is also tackling several issues linked to CEPA with the goal of providing regulatory backing and implementing new provisions in the Bill. This would include developing the implementation framework for the right to a healthy environment, the plan for chemicals management priorities, and the regulations to define the criteria for identifying high-risk substances.

“Scientific understanding of pollutants doesn’t stop, and neither will we. We will continue to review other potential legislative changes to CEPA to ensure that it remains relevant in the context of today’s challenges.

“We’re working collaboratively with Parliamentarians and Canadians across the country to better protect human health and the environment and ensure that all Canadians are protected through CEPA. I know that we can give this to Canadians.”  — The Hon. Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change


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