In our view the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) does not represent a credible response to the enormous environmental challenges we confront. While Bill C-32 would correct several of the deficiencies of the Act, and strengthen the federal role particularly in the areas of gathering and disseminating information about the environment, it does not address many other, and more fundamental weaknesses of Canada’s most important environmental statute.
Canadians have not been served well by CEPA, or by the indifferent performance of the governments’ responsible for its implementation and enforcement. Unless substantial changes are made to Bill C-32, achieving critical environmental goals will remain almost as elusive in the future, as they have since CEPA was passed by Parliament 10 years ago.
We firmly believe there is a need for strong, and determined commitments to protect our environment. But as evidence grows of the seriousness of problems such as climate change, biodiversity loss and toxic pollution, the willingness and capacity of political administrations to address these challenges appears to be in retreat. We believe that Bill C-32 will do very little to reverse this disturbing trend.
The following submissions attempt to address the most fundamental deficiencies of the Act, namely its failure to actually establish the principles of environmental protection as matters worthy of unqualified and explicit statutory protection. However, we also address several of the specific issues that are addressed by the Bill, and which are of particular interest to our Association and the constituencies we represent.
We have had the opportunity of working closely with our colleagues in environmental law groups elsewhere and concur largely with their critiques. Our failure to address such issues as the Bill’s provisions concerning harmonization and bio-diversity for example should not be taken as an indication that these issues are not of critical concern. Rather we rely upon the submissions of our colleagues on these matters.