Environment and Climate Change Canada is promising to develop a risk framework to help guide its compliance efforts for substances under its Chemicals Management Plan. It will also develop a policy that discloses how human health risks are taken into account when enforcement decisions are made.
That commitment responds to one of the recommendations of the federal Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development in her 2018 Fall Reports, released October 2, 2018. That report found that Environment and Climate Change Canada targets its toxic substance enforcement activities mostly on business’ likelihood of non-compliance.
Those enforcement activities appear substantial: more than 10,000 site visits or reviews of business reports in fiscal years 2014-15 to 2016-17, almost 4,300 warnings, and 603 compliance orders. However, the Commissioner asks if a focus on the likelihood of non-compliance is best. Should enforcement not be based on risk to human health? she asks.
The audit lists 38 regulations dealing with toxic substances that were in effect during the period of the audit. Of these, one — the Tetrachloroethylene (Use in Dry Cleaning and Reporting Requirements) Regulations (SOR/2003-79) — accounted for almost 22% of inspections and almost 28% of enforcement measures. Meanwhile another 23 regulations each accounted for less than one percent of inspections and enforcement measures. The Prohibition of Certain Toxic Substances Regulations, 2012 (SOR/2012-285), which prohibit 26 toxic substances from being manufactured, used, sold, or imported in Canada, had no inspections.
Ironically, Environment and Climate Change Canada says it focussed on tetrachloroethylene to respond to the Commissioner’s 2011 audit recommendation to calculate compliance rates. In that respect, the enforcement program worked; compliance with the tetrachloroethylene regulation did go up. However, the report adds that in the seven years since the 2011 recommendation, other substances could have been selected for priority enforcement on the basis of risk.