Summary of Environmental Law in Canada

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23 Military or Federal Facilities


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As it does to all Canadians, the entire Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) applies to the members of the federal house. As a result, the regulations concerning toxic substances, fuel, disposal at sea, and other substances also apply to the federal house. Its compliance with the Act is monitored, and infractions under CEPA committed by its members are subject to legal action like any other infraction.

Part 9 of CEPA 1999, however, applies specifically to operations of the Government of Canada. It governs departments, agencies, Crown Corporations and boards, as well as federal works and undertakings, aboriginal lands, and persons who occupy or who use federal land, commonly called the "federal house."

Part 9 is necessary because under the Canadian Constitution, provincial environmental laws generally do not apply to the federal government. In other words, federal operations, federal lands, and aboriginal lands are not subject to provincial regulations or permit systems that govern emissions, effluents, environmental emergencies, and the management of wastes and other substances present in the environment. Part 9 of CEPA 1999 fills this gap and ensures that federal facilities and lands and aboriginal lands are subject to the same environmental regulations as bodies under provincial or territorial jurisdiction.

Part 9 also allows for the adoption of environmental regulations or guidelines that apply exclusively to the federal house in order to ensure "that its operations and activities on federal and aboriginal lands are carried out in a manner that is consistent with the principles of pollution prevention and the protection of the environment and human health." (CEPA 1999, Preamble) Part 9 confers on the Governor in Council (federal Cabinet) the broad power to enact, specifically for the federal house, regulations with respect to:

Part 9 also requires the minister to fix objectives, establish codes of practice, and publish guidelines that apply specifically to the federal house. In other respects, since 1980, the Federal Policy on Land Use has been applied to federal facilities. The policy focuses on minimizing environmental impacts of decisions relating to the acquisition, use, and disposal of federal lands.

In 1992, the minister responsible for CEPA issued the Canadian Forces and National Defence Policy on the Environment. The same year the the Defence Environmental Advisory Committee was established by the Minister of National Defence to advise on the impact of DND activities and operations on the environment. In December 1994, the White Paper on the New Defence Policy, along with an environmental assessment of the paper, was released.

Since 1985, DND has been conducting environmental baseline studies (environmental audits) on current operations. These studies include a review of the strengths and weaknesses of a given DND activity, an evaluation of possible resulting ecological damage, and suggestions toward more environmentally sound operations. Each base has been evaluated and a priority list has been established to correct weaknesses in current operations, to plan the clean up of previous environmental pollution, and to reduce or eliminate future pollution. CEPA and DND policy dictate the conduct of the environmental baseline studies.

With respect to clean up activities, a Contaminated Site Database provides the minister responsible for CEPA with information on all contaminated sites, spills, and incident reporting. DND continues to participate in the clean up of abandoned foreign military sites in Canada, such as a number of radar stations. Also, the Navy is implementing the Maritime Environmental Protection Plan to deal more effectively with waste and fuel handling ships.

DND is working to reduce its waste, its energy and water consumption, and to improve the protection of forests and sensitive habitats under its control.

DND has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Environment Canada to the effect that the Canadian Forces will provide assistance in case of environmental emergencies. Upon request, the military will assist civil agencies and the local private sector in responding to immediate needs, such as equipment, transportation, and communications. The Canadian Forces also conduct environmental surveillance operations regarding causes and effects of pollution on Canadian territory.

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