After many years of pushing for stronger protections from pollution and toxic chemicals in consumer products, Environmental Defence’s work has paid off and the federal government has introduced a Bill to modernize the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). And it’s because of your endless support over the years! You’ve sent letters and postcards to decision makers, set up calls and meetings with your MP, participated in days of action, and so much more – and for this, we are forever grateful.
It has been over 20 years since CEPA was last updated. With each passing year, our exposure to pollution and toxics like BPA on receipts, PFAS in food packaging, or phthalates in cosmetics has increased, while our scientific understanding of risks to these chemicals has advanced.
Bill C-28: Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act introduces critical improvements to CEPA like:
- Recognition for the first time in federal law the right to a healthy environment. Canada currently lags behind the 156 other UN member states that have already enshrined the legal right to a healthy environment in their constitutions, laws, court decisions or regional treaties. If developed meaningfully, these new rights should provide citizens with a path to ensure prosecution of polluters and to see toxic chemicals and GMOs evaluated for their risk to human health and the environment.
- New rules that require the assessment of the impact of toxic chemicals on vulnerable populations like racialized communities and workers who are disproportionately exposed to toxics because they live nearby or have high workplace exposures. Some people can be at increased risk because their stage of life makes them more sensitive. For example, hormone mimicking chemicals like BPA can have disproportionate impacts on children and pregnant women.
- A commitment to examine the cumulative impact of multiple chemicals.
- The creation of a priority list of the highest risk chemicals that need to be prohibited. This list will focus on chemicals that are mutagenic, carcinogenic or interfere with reproduction and/or bioaccumulate. Chemicals like PFAS should get priority.
- Mandatory ingredient labelling of everyday products like flame retardants on furniture and the complete disclosure (including fragrance ingredients) in cosmetics and cleaning products will occur through several regulations and consultations on the rules that will begin this September with action promised for next spring.
Bill C-28 is the first step in bringing what is arguably Canada’s most important environmental law into the 21st century. Everyone in Canada deserves to be protected from pollution and exposure to toxics that threaten our health and environment.
This action is even more important during the COVID pandemic as we have learned that pre-existing health conditions increase people’s susceptibility to the virus and we know that exposure to toxic chemicals can be a key factor in reducing overall health and ability to fight disease.
All political parties must now make Bill C-28 a priority. MPs must work together to move this bill into committee for consideration and improvements as soon as possible. We can’t wait another 21 years to reform Canada’s most important environmental law.
But for the moment, let’s celebrate how far we have come and this important step for environmental law in Canada. Stay tuned as we will need YOUR help to get Bill C-28 improved and passed.