Improving Bill S-5 could bring in better product labelling laws in Canada

Toronto | Traditional territories of the Huron-Wendat, the Anishnaabeg, Haudenosaunee, Chippewas and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation  – Tomorrow, the Parliamentary Environment Committee (ENVI) is likely to vote on a critical amendment to Bill S-5, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Environmental health advocates are urging the federal government to make common sense improvements to Bill S-5, including labelling hazardous substances on consumer products.  

The government’s own research on product labelling found that nine out of 10 people are concerned about the potential environmental and health impacts of the products they buy and use; seven out of 10 say that ingredient information influences their product purchases and that they want mandatory labelling of potential health hazards on product labels.

Other jurisdictions such as the EU, California, and New York State have mandated labelling health warnings, including allergens and carcinogens. Their legislation goes well beyond the weak labelling requirements proposed thus far by the Canadian government. 

For more detailed information, please see our full media backgrounder.

This opportunity to amend Bill S-5 and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) to label hazardous chemicals in products could help reduce health and environmental impacts from harmful ingredients. People deserve to be provided with the information they need to inform their purchases and to help drive the economy towards healthier, greener products in Canada. 

The Liberal election platform promised action on mandatory product labelling, and the Minister of Health’s mandate letter reinforces this commitment. Years of consultations and reports underscore the need to strengthen CEPA. While this mandate is at risk of going unmet, product-based exposures and pollution continue to impact our health and contaminate the environment.

Cassie Barker, Toxics Senior Program Manager, Environmental Defence, said: 

“It’s time our government caught up to other world leaders by telling us what harmful chemicals are in the products we buy. These substances should no longer be secrets when they affect our health, and fully labelling these items should be an easy improvement to our toxics laws. Bill S-5 could help us get there.” 

Jennifer Beeman, Executive Director, Breast Cancer Action Quebec, said:

“Labelling hazardous product ingredients is a fundamental issue of corporate accountability. We know that these companies will clean up their act when required to disclose toxic and endocrine-disrupting chemicals.” 

About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian environmental advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.

About BREAST CANCER ACTION QUEBEC (acsqc.ca): Breast Cancer Action Quebec is a feminist, environmental health organization whose mission is the prevention of breast cancer, with a particular focus on environmental factors linked to the disease.  Working in collaboration with a wide range of groups, BCAQ educates on toxics and other health issues and works for a clean environment and communities that support the health of their members.


For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Paula Gray, Communications Manager, Environmental Defence, media@environmentaldefence.ca, 705-435-8611