Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA)

It’s the foundation of our environmental regulations
and it needs to be implement.

We’re working hard to make sure we get this right!

One year since the adoption of Bill S-5 

The updated CEPA is the tool; its implementation is the change. 

Between February 2022, when Bill S-5, the bill that strengthened the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, was introduced and June 13, 2023 when it receive royal assent, Breast Cancer Action Québec, along with our broad network of members and ally groups, worked long and hard to make the proposed amendments as strong as possible. We are particularly proud of the women’s groups in Quebec that joined us in this fight as well as all the individuals who wrote to their MPs and everyone who signed onto our letters. So many groups across Quebec and Canada worked to make this happen. 

On this one-year anniversary, we don’t know whether to be cautiously optimistic or quite nervous that all the work required for implementation of the right to a healthy environment and to establish the range of regulations for better controls on toxics will be finished before the next elections. If they are not in place and there is a change of government, it is anyone’s guess as to whether this work will be meaningfully continued. 

The government has created this very good overview of what the amendments should achieve, but only if they are implemented vigorously.  

Environment and Climate Change Canada has a very large amount of work on its cutting board right now. It will require determination and a good strategy to get it all accomplished before the next elections in a way that provides real change over the long term. 

Quotes from groups are provided at the end of the document and here's ours: 

The passage of Bill S-5 is the culmination of work by so many groups and citizens across Quebec and Canada for a stronger Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The Bill represents an important move forward with the inclusion of the right to a healthy environment in federal law, and much-needed requirements on chemical regulations to reign in the widespread use of toxic substances. The next steps are equally important as the government moves forward with the new Bill as there are important new tools to be developed for its implementation in order to truly protect the health of all people in Canada.” 
– Jennifer Beeman, Program and Advocacy Coordinator, Breast Cancer Action Quebec  


Breast Cancer Action Quebec, in collaboration with many other health and environmental groups, is working to tighten regulations on the use of toxic chemicals used in everyday consumer goods and products. From flame retardants in furniture and electronic equipment to phthalates in cosmetics, perfumes, hairsprays, food packaging, shower curtains, these chemicals and many others have serious and proven negative effects on health and the environment.

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) defines what constitutes a toxic substance and establishes, among other things, controls on emissions of air and water pollution and hazardous waste. The law regulates air emissions in relation to greenhouse gases. As such, it aims to prevent pollution and protect the environment and human health. A wide range of federal, provincial and municipal laws and regulations are based on these definitions and controls.

This legislation is outdated and makes it impossible to effectively manage the multitude of new chemical compounds used in our consumer products. Every day, Canadians are exposed to hundreds of toxic substances, many of which are associated with certain types of cancers, reproductive disorders, respiratory diseases and more. As a result, thousands of people die prematurely and millions more suffer from preventable diseases.


The need for CEPA reform

The former law:

  1. allowed the circulation of substances that are hormone-disrupting, carcinogenic, mutagenic, or toxic for reproduction, neurological development or foetal development;

  2. has limited implementation of the pollution prevention program and as a result, allows for ever increasing amounts of toxic substances to be released into the environment;

  3. did not establish binding national standards for air quality or drinking water.

The class of chemicals that are “endocrine disrupting”, i. e. hormone-disrupting, has been shown to be associated with an increase in hormone-dependent cancers (such as breast and prostate cancer), chronic diseases (such as diabetes and asthma), neurological disorders (such as ADHD and autism) and reproductive disorders (in both sexes).

All people in Canada deserve to live in a healthy and safe environment.

The Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development (ENVI) on CEPA made 87 recommendations in its report to Parliament in 2018.

There is an urgent need for the Parliament of Canada to act quickly to protect Canadians and the environment. 

If you are concerned about these issues and want your voice to be heard, please join us in our fight.

Breast Cancer Action Quebec in the News

We Are Fighting Toxic Exposures

The CEPA Reform We Need

Our Brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development

As many of you know, our chemical regulatory system allows chemicals to go into production and circulation without proof of their safety. We are then required to fight a reactive battle, toxic substance by toxic substance, to prove their harm and get them out of circulation and out of our environment. In many cases, our exposure to toxic substances continues for decades after bans go into effect. 

Currently, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) is up for review, including the vital pollution control and toxic substance regulations. CEPA is the "mother" of our environmental regulations, as it defines toxic chemicals and how they are managed, it outlines the major aspects of pollution emission controls and much more.

→ Canada is considered by many as having the weakest chemical regulations of all Western countries. ← In his presentation to the Federal Parliament's Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, the president of the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada said, "We are here to tell you today one key message. The chemicals management plan has been and remains on course to be a stunning public policy success." The chemical industry thinks CEPA and its Chemical Management Plan are excellent and do not need any modifications.

We beg to differ and presented our views in our brief submitted to the Standing Committee. You can read our brief here.