Quebec civil society takes a stand on the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999:
Eighty-two groups signed our declaration calling for the government to strengthen CEPA to protect human health and the environment
We, the undersigned civil society groups of Quebec, endorse the report of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development to strengthen the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA). Although the mission of CEPA is "to contribute to sustainable development through pollution prevention […] from both a human and an environmental perspective" (Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, 2017), it must be said that toxic substance regulations are obsolete and do not ensure the protection of the environment or the health of populations. Specifically, the Act does not prevent the circulation of carcinogens, reproductive toxicants and/or endocrine disruptors through various consumer products.
It is urgent and crucial that the Parliament of Canada revise CEPA in line with the report. In particular, our organizations approve the following recommendations with regard to CEPA:
- DEFINITIONS AND BURDEN OF PROOF
1. Revise the definition of "toxic" to ensure that it addresses endocrine disruptors.
Endocrine disruptors cause harm to the hormone system by mimicking, blocking and/or disrupting hormones, which can lead to the development of various diseases such as breast and prostate cancer, as well as male infertility and early puberty in girls. Astonishingly, endocrine disruptors are not considered toxic substances under CEPA, since a substance's toxicity is defined by its concentration, in other words the greater the quantity of a substance, the more toxic it is deemed to be. However, endocrine disruptors contradict this principle, since they are dangerous at low levels whereas they have few effects at high levels.
2. Reverse the burden of proof for substances of very high concern such as carcinogens, reproductive toxicants and endocrine disruptors.
Substances of very high concern must be banned unless the industry can demonstrate that they can be used safely and that there are no feasible substitutes or alternatives.
3. Require that risk assessments include aggregate exposure to and cumulative and synergistic effects of the substance.
The regulation of toxic substances under CEPA operates substance by substance, which does not reflect the daily reality of Canadians, who are exposed simultaneously to toxic substances that interact with each other.
4. Update the Persistence and Bioaccumulation Regulations.
The criteria defining persistence and bioaccumulation are not sufficiently strict, which prevents many substances from being considered toxic. The Canadian threshold to determine whether a substance is bioaccumulative is three times higher than that of the United States and Europe. What is considered bioaccumulative in Canada is considered highly bioaccumulative in Europe (MacDonald and de Leon, 2013).
- PROTECTING THE PUBLIC
5. Take into account vulnerable populations and marginalized communities, including their exposures during critical windows of vulnerability, when assessing risk.
Certain populations, such as children, pregnant women, the elderly and Indigenous persons, are particularly vulnerable when exposed to toxic substances. Vulnerability can result from the level of exposure to toxic substances or from susceptibility, that is, the fact of being more liable to feel the effects of exposure to toxic substances. Susceptibility can occur during critical windows of vulnerability such as puberty, a period of hormonal change during which the effects of endocrine disruptors are more acute.
6. Require mandatory hazard labelling of all products containing toxic substances.
Workers' "right to know" about hazardous substances in consumer products must extend to the Canadian population as a whole. This labelling method would allow Canadians to be aware that certain consumer products can entail risks for human health, such as cancer and male infertility.
7. Recognize the right to a healthy environment.
Over 150 countries have already adopted this right, which protects the quality of air, water and soil for their populations.
- LEGALLY BINDING AND ENFORCEABLE NORMS AND THE EVALUATION PROCESS
8. Develop legally binding and enforceable national standards for air quality.
We are currently the only industrialized country that has not enacted any legally binding national standard, and our discretionary guidelines are often less strict than the legally binding standards enacted in other countries.
9. Improve and prescribe timelines applying to toxic substance risk management measures.
Measures pertaining to toxic substances under CEPA can be postponed indefinitely, as demonstrated by the long time required to ban or restrict the use of substances such as asbestos, triclosan and brominated flame retardants.
10. Improve assessment and approval of new substances.
The assessment and approval process of new substances under CEPA contains an abundance of loopholes and regulatory vagueness with respect to both new toxic substances and new genetically modified organisms that are proposed for use in Canada.
11. Assess and identify alternatives to toxic substances and place the burden on industry to show that safer substitutes are not available.
Industry must show that safer substitutes are not available, so as to prevent the use of substitutes that are as toxic as or more toxic than the banned substances.
12. Correct the toxic substance assessment or reassessment process.
The aspects of CEPA that are designed to facilitate the toxic substance assessment or reassessment process have been shown to be inadequate to the task. We recommend defining three clear "triggers" to determine substances requiring assessment: new scientific evidence of harmful effects on human health and the environment; the enactment of a ban or a significant restriction of the use of a substance in a foreign Member State of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or in a subdivision of that State; and the possibility for individuals to ask that a substance be assessed.
Canadian Nurses for Health & the Environment
Coalition Eau Secours!
Réseau québécois d'action pour la santé des femmes (RQASF)
Réseau des Tables régionales de groupes de femmes du Québec
Table de concertation du mouvement des femmes de la Mauricie (TCMFM)
Réseau d’action pour l’égalité des femmes immigrées et racisées du Québec (RAFIQ)
Women of Diverse Origins
Regroupement des cuisines collectives du Québec
Fédération des maisons d'hébergement pour femmes
Table de concertation de Laval en condition féminine
The Green Coalition
Le Regroupement des groupes populaires en alphabétisation du Québec
Réseau des femmes en environnement
Centre des femmes solidaires et engagées
Service d'Entraide Passerelle
Centre de documentation sur l'éducation des adultes et la condition féminine (CDÉACF)
L'R des centres de femmes du Québec
Collectif pour un Québec sans pauvreté
Réseau des femmes des Laurentides (RFL)
The Ligue des droits et libertés
Centre des femmes de Saint-Laurent
Action travail des femmes
Centre des femmes de Longueuil
Les Éditions du remue-ménage
South Asian Women’s Community Centre (SAWCC)
COCo: The Centre for Community Organizations
Simone de Beauvoir Institute (SDBI)
Réseau d'action des femmes en santé et services sociaux
Table des groupes de femmes de Montréal
Mouvement d'éducation populaire et d'action communautaire du Québec
Au bas de l’échelle
ACT: Ageing, Communication, Technologies: Experiencing a Digital World in Later Life
Réseau des lesbiennes du Québec pour la visibilité sociale et politique des femmes de la diversité sexuelle
Ressources Ethnoculturelles Contre l’Abus envers les Aîné(e)s
Participatory Media Cluster
ConcertAction femmes Estrie
Le Centre de femmes l'Essentielle
Regroupement des centres de la petite enfance de la Montérégie (RCPEM)
Les Cercles de Fermières du Québec
Groupe-Ressource du Plateau Mont-Royal
Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice, Quebec Chapter
Table de concertation des groupes de femmes du Bas-Saint-Laurent
Centre ressources pour femmes de Beauport (CRFB)
Carrefour d'éducation populaire de Pointe-Saint-Charles
Le Grand Conseil de la Nation Waban-Aki
L’Assemblée des groupes de femmes d’interventions régionales
Centre des femmes de Verdun
The Canadian Council of Muslim Women, Montreal Chapter
Afrique au Féminin
Regroupement des aidants naturels du Québec
The Council of Canadians, Montreal Chapter
The LEAP, Montreal Chapter
Regroupement des aidantes et aidants naturels de Montréal (RAANM)
The Transition NDG Cooperative
Centre des femmes d'ici et d'ailleurs
Centre de femmes La Marie Debout
Institut International de Naturopathie
Table régionale des centres de femmes
La Table de concertation des groupes de femmes de la Montérégie
La Maison des Grands-Parents de Villeray
La Maison de quartier Villeray
Centre de santé des femmes de Montréal
Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, S.C. 1999, ch. 33. Accessed at: http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/fra/lois/c-15.31/
Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development (2017). Healthy environment, healthy Canadians, healthy economy: strengthening the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. (42nd Parliament, 1st Session). Accessed at: http://www.noscommunes.ca/Content/Committee/421/ENVI/Reports/RP9037962/envirp08/envirp08-f.pdf
MacDonald, E., de Leon, F. (2013). Review of the Persistence and Bioaccumulation Regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999. Accessed at: http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/Francais/pet_351_f_39088.html
Breast Cancer Action Quebec