Minister Prentice Tables Environmental Enforcement Bill

Municipal & Planning Law Blog

March 10, 2009

Posted by Jonathan Cummings and Jennifer Cleall

On March 4, 2009, the Minister of Environment, Jim Prentice, introduced the Environmental Enforcement Bill (the “Bill”) in an effort to constrain poachers, wildlife smugglers and polluters through the use of more comprehensive enforcement tools and increased fines.

The Bill seeks to enhance effectiveness and enforcement of environmental legislation by making amendments to 9 existing acts: the Canada Wildlife Act; the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999; 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 Canada Parks Act, the International River Improvements Act; the Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park Act; and the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act (the “Acts”).

One of the of the primary changes to be instituted in the Acts is the introduction of minimum fines for serious offences and the increase of maximum fines, the proceeds of which will be paid into an Environmental Damages Fund supporting local environmental initiatives or research.

The Bill includes the identification of clear objectives for sentencing related to environmental offences, these being deterrence, denunciation and restoration. Another change made by the Bill is the enumeration of what will be considered aggravating factors or mitigating factors when sentencing. As well, the Bill institutes higher ranges of fines for corporate offenders. In conjunction with this, it establishes a public registry on which all corporate offenders are to be listed and requires all convicted corporate offenders to notify their shareholders of their conviction(s).

The changes to the Acts will also input harsher penalties for repeat offenders, such as double fines, and will allow for the suspension and abrogation of permits, authorizations and licenses of offenders upon conviction. The changes provide for the creation of regulatory fines for less serious offenses, streamlining the process and enabling the quick punishment of offences which would otherwise unnecessarily consume resources or be ignored.

In the view of accomplishing such new and effective methods of enforcement the Bill also proposes that there be an increase in funding and an increase in the hiring of another 106 enforcement officers.

Read the full press release here. See Environment Canada’s website for a more detailed overview of the Bill or of the new penalties and sentencing which go along with it.