Modernizing the Canadian Environmental Protection Act: an update on Bill S-5 and long-waited amendments to Canada’s framework for protecting the environment

  • April 06, 2023
  • Diana Weir, Counsel, and Zack Goldford, Articling Student, Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development is currently reviewing Bill S-5, which would implement the first set of major amendments to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) since its enactment in 1999.

Bill S-5 was introduced in 2022 after a similar bill, Bill C-28, died on the order paper when Parliament was dissolved in 2021. Bill S-5 completed third reading in the Senate on June 22, 2022, and it is expected to be passed by the House of Commons later in 2023.

Key amendments

Some key proposed amendments to CEPA include:

  • To recognize, for the first time in Canadian law, that every individual in Canada has a right to a healthy environment;
  • To strengthen the management of substances in commerce under Canadian law;
  • To provide the government with additional information-gathering powers that will cover a broader range of substances, including products that may release substances into the environment; and
  • To confirm the government’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.