In Canada, provincial governments also play a role in environmental regulation. Ontario is the leading province in toxics reduction legislation. Ontario has developed a Toxics Reduction Strategy to help protect the health and environment of Ontarians by reducing toxic substances in air, land, water, and consumer products while fostering the green economy. In June 2009, the Ontario Legislature passed the Toxics Reduction Act, the cornerstone of the Toxics Reduction Strategy. The act requires regulated facilities to track and quantify the toxic substances that they use and create, to develop plans to reduce the use and creation of these substances, and to make summaries of their plans available to the public.
The main federal environmental legislation in Canada is the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). This Act governs many aspects of chemical assessment and regulation in Canada. In 1999, aspects of this Act were strengthened, including the requirement for the government to screen/categorize chemicals, mandatory time limits on actions, and the addition of pollution prevention planning as a tool for pollution reduction. The revisions also included important new guiding principles on pollution prevention, virtual elimination, and the precautionary principle.
CEPA 1999 also requires the government to categorize all existing chemicals in Canada, cataloged in an inventory of chemicals called the Domestic Substances List, and to identify chemicals with the potential to be defined as toxic under CEPA. Canada completed the major task of systematically sorting through the approximately 23,000 existing chemicals in 2006.
A Chemicals Management Plan was announced in December 2006 to address the results of categorization. A major focus of the Chemicals Management Plan is to collect additional information from industry and potentially develop risk management tools for a group of about 200 chemicals considered high priority, known as the “Industry Challenge Chemicals.” About 129 of the approximately 200 Industry Challenge chemicals were selected for environmental reasons. These 200 high priority Industry Challenge chemicals are broken into smaller groups of 15-30 chemicals, known as “batches” and are released sequentially about every three months. Industry is required to provide information on the use, manufacturing, and importation of these chemicals. Stakeholders are also invited to provide additional information on a voluntary basis.
This process of completing screening assessments for all 200 challenge chemicals is expected to take three years (2007-2010). After completion of this task, the process of risk management for the challenge chemicals is expected to be completed within three years following the screening assessment (2010-2013).
Canada is also working collaboratively with the US and Mexico on chemical safety issues, including the safe production and use of industrial chemicals, under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America.