Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Canadian Environmental Commissioner Finds Government Enforcement Weak

Scott Vaughan, Canada's Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, tabled a report in Parliament today that states that the federal government's environmental enforcement capabilities are inadequate and poorly managed.

The position of Commissioner was created in 1995 within the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.

Vaughan writes that the government:
"does not have adequate information on whom it is regulating and who is not complying with the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) regulations. This information is needed to determine which regulatees and activities pose the greatest risks to human health or the environment as a result of non-compliance. Without a clear understanding of whom it is regulating and which regulatees pose the greatest threats, the Directorate cannot be sure that its National Enforcement Plan is targeting the highest risks to human health and the environment." (para. 3.73)
Earlier this week, environmental lawyers from the organization Ecojustice concluded that prosecutions under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act are rare:
"The report found that the number of inspections and warnings issued under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), one of Canada’s most important pollution laws, has declined since 2005-06 — despite an increase in the number of enforcement officers. The number of CEPA investigations, prosecutions, and convictions has also declined steadily since 2003-04 (...)"

"Average fines for environmental offenders, which amount to about $10,000 per CEPA conviction, are also too low to serve as an effective deterrent for would-be polluters, according to the report. It took Environment Canada more than 20 years to collect $2.4-million in fines under CEPA. In comparison, the Toronto Public Library collected $2.6-million in fines for overdue books in 2009 alone."

"Part of the problem, the report found, is that enforcement data gathered under different federal environmental laws is often inconsistent, incomplete and hard to access. Very limited information identifying environmental offenders, incident location and the exact nature of the violation is then disclosed to the public. Data on compliance rates by regulated entities is not publicly available."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:23 pm

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