Environment Canada

Environment Canada

March 04, 2009 16:46 ET

New Enforcement Legislation Cracks Down on Environmental Offenders

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 4, 2009) - Cracking down on polluters, poachers and wildlife smugglers through increased fines and new enforcement tools are the main elements of the Environmental Enforcement Bill introduced in the House of Commons today by Environment Minister Jim Prentice.

A key provision of the new bill is that it raises maximum fines and introduces minimum fines for the first time. Under the proposed bill, fines for individuals who commit serious offences would be between $5,000 and $1 million, while fines for corporations would be between $25,000 and $6 million. The bill also gives enforcement officers new powers to investigate cases and grants courts new sentencing authorities that ensure penalties reflect the seriousness of the pollution and wildlife offences.

"In the election campaign, our government committed to bolster the protection of our water, air and land through tougher environmental enforcement that holds polluters accountable. Today we delivered," said Minister Prentice. "This bill, together with funding commitments of $43 million from Budgets 2007 and 2008 to hire more enforcement officers and to implement the new measures, will provide a comprehensive, modern and effective enforcement regime for Canada."

Through the Environmental Enforcement Bill, it is proposed that Parliament signal through new statutory provisions the level of fines appropriate for environmental offences and expand the authority to deal with environmental offenders by:

- specifying aggravating factors such as damage to a protected area or to a unique or vulnerable environment or species;

- providing fine ranges higher for corporate offenders than for individuals;

- doubling fine ranges for repeat offenders;

- authorizing the suspension and cancellation of offender licenses, permits or other authorizations upon conviction;

- requiring corporate offenders to report convictions to shareholders; and

- mandating the reporting of corporate offences on a public registry.

As well, the bill directs that fines imposed by the courts go to the Environmental Damages Fund which provides funding to local environmental improvement initiatives.

The existing environmental laws to be improved by the omnibus Environment Enforcement Bill, some of which have not been updated in over two decades, are:

- The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999

- The Canada Wildlife Act

- The Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994

- The Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act

- The Antarctic Environmental Protection Act

- The International River Improvements Act

- The Canada National Parks Act

- The Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act

- The Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park Act

The new legislation builds on the Budget 2007 commitment of $22 million for the hiring of 106 new officers, bringing the number of on-the-ground enforcement officers across the country to more than 320, and the Budget 2008 allocation of $21 million over two years to implement the stricter environmental enforcement measures.

For further information, please visit Environment Canada's Web site at: www.ec.gc.ca

(Egalement offert en francais)


BACKGROUNDER

Overview of the Environmental Enforcement Bill

An Act to make amendments relating to the enforcement of, and to enact provisions respecting the enforcement of, certain Acts that relate to the environment, otherwise known as the Environmental Enforcement Bill, would amend nine existing Acts to ensure more effective enforcement of the laws that protect our national parks, our air, our land, our water, and Canada's wildlife.

In the past, the effectiveness of Canada's environmental legislation and regulations has been hampered by the lack of an adequate enforcement regime.

The Environmental Enforcement Bill addresses the shortcomings of existing laws and puts in place a stronger enforcement regime that Canadians want for the protection of their environment and their health.

It introduces stiffer fines and new sentencing powers and considerations, and strengthens the government's ability to investigate and prosecute infractions to give Canadians an effective environmental enforcement regime. The legislative changes are accompanied by a range of other complementary measures as well.

Specific improvements proposed by the Bill

Fines. A new fine structure would be added to each of the nine Acts to set different fines for individuals, corporations, and ships. Minimum fines would be stipulated for serious offences, and maximum fines would be increased. Fines would be doubled for subsequent offences. The bill would also direct all fines to the Environmental Damages Fund so they may be used to repair the harm done by offences.

Sentencing. The bill would add a new clause to each Act to set out the fundamental purpose of sentencing. Purposes include deterrence, denunciation and restoration. The bill would also identify factors that the courts would consider in sentencing, such as the nature of the damage, whether it was committed intentionally or recklessly, whether the perpetrator stood to benefit financially from the offence and whether attempts were made to conceal the offence after it was committed. The courts would also be able to issue orders, upon conviction of an offender, to cancel or suspend licenses and/or permits, and require corporations to inform shareholders about offences.

Enforcement Tools. The bill would create a public registry of corporate offenders, extend authority to issue compliance orders; and extend the use of analysts, experts who can assist in inspections and investigations.

Administrative Monetary Penalties. The bill would grant authority to develop administrative monetary penalties by regulation. Relatively modest fines could then be levied by officials against persons who commit less serious violations of environmental laws. This would lead to increased enforcement as it would provide an important alternative to full court action for less serious offences.

Administrative monetary penalties would also ensure less serious infractions could be dealt with consistently across the country. This is not currently possible, since enforcement officers do not have the authority to issue tickets in every province.

Legislative Changes

The bill would amend nine existing statutes that are administered by Environment Canada and the Parks Canada Agency: the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999; the Canada Wildlife Act; the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994; the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act; the Antarctic Environmental Protection Act; the International River Improvements Act; the Canada National Parks Act; the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act; and the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park Act.

The changes would include:

- Establishing minimum fines for the most serious offences and increasing maximum fines

- Creating different fine scales for different types of offenders. For example, corporations would be subject to higher fines than individuals

- Providing sentencing guidance to courts so that environmental damages, prior convictions and other relevant factors are taken into account and treated as aggravating factors

- Establishing administrative penalties to address less serious environmental offences that are often not pursued because of the complexity and high costs of prosecution

- Directing fines towards the Environmental Damages Fund, from which they can be used by community based groups for environmental restoration or research projects.


BACKGROUNDER

Environmental Enforcement Bill

New Penalties and Sentencing Provisions

The current fine structure in many of Canada's environmental laws is out of date. In the last 20 years, there has been a growing understanding of the extent and severity of the damages that environmental offences can cause, and a corresponding increase in the demand for more severe penalties and fines for infractions.

While many of Canada's environmental statutes provide for maximum fines, the lack of minimum fines leaves courts with little guidance on appropriate fines.

As a result, courts have generally imposed fines that are not high enough to act as strong deterrents or to express public denunciation of environmental infractions. For example, despite maximum possible fines of $1 million per day under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, the courts have never imposed a fine under that Act greater than $100,000. Some corporate offenders may simply consider low fines as the cost of doing business.

An Act to make amendments relating to the enforcement of, and to enact provisions respecting the enforcement of, certain Acts that relate to the environment, otherwise known as the Environmental Enforcement Bill, would introduce a new fine regime that would reflect more accurately the seriousness of environmental offences. In addition to higher fines, the bill would delineate fine ranges according to the nature of the offence and the type of the offender.

A table of the proposed fine regime in the Environmental Enforcement Bill is available at the following address: http://media3.marketwire.com/docs/fina_eng.pdf

Penalties

The Environmental Enforcement Bill would specify different fine ranges for different classes of offenders. For example, fines for large corporations would be higher than those for small corporations or individuals.

The bill would also direct all fines to the Environmental Damages Fund, so they may be used to support restoration of the environment harmed by offences.

Sentencing

The Environmental Enforcement Bill would add a clause to each of the nine statutes being amended, setting out the fundamental purpose of sentencing to reinforce the objectives of deterrence, denunciation and restoration.

The bill also identifies a number of factors to be treated as aggravating during sentencing. If present in an offence, these factors would lead to the higher fines.

These aggravating factors could include:

- Actual damage or risk of damage to the environment;

- That the offence caused damage or risk of damage to any unique, rare, particularly important or vulnerable area or component of the environment;

- That the damage caused was irreparable, extensive or persistent;

- That the offender failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the offence despite having the financial means to do so; and

- A history of non-compliance on the part of the offender.

The types of orders the court may make with respect to an offender is expanded through the bill. For example, the bill would authorize the courts to suspend or cancel permits or licenses issued to offenders, or prevent an offender from applying for a permit for a specified period of time.

More Enforcement Officers and Increased Support

In addition to the new measures on fines, sentencing and enforcement tools, Environment Canada will increase the number of enforcement officers in the field from approximately 215 officers today to over 320 through $22 million in additional funding announced in Budget 2007. Budget 2008 provides a further $21 million over two years to Environment Canada to allow for the implementation of the stricter enforcement regime that the legislation will bring. The additional staff and resources will enable Environment Canada to better provide expert laboratory service, including training; ensure continuity of evidence; ensure the security of samples within the laboratory; and provide technical expertise, data interpretation, and expert witness testimony.

In addition, enforcement officials will be able to use cutting-edge scientific technologies for the collection and analysis of samples. Training in new threat areas that have not traditionally been enforced in the past will also be added.

Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister of the Environment
    Frederic Baril
    Press Secretary
    819-997-1441
    or
    Environment Canada
    Media Relations
    819-934-8008
    1-888-908-8008
    www.ec.gc.ca