Federal environmental enforcement needs improvement

Due to numerous
weaknesses in the management of its environmental enforcement
program, Environment Canada does not know how much its enforcement
activities contribute to regulatory compliance and minimize
environmental damage, says Scott Vaughan, Commissioner of the
Environment and Sustainable Development.

The audit looked at the Department’s enforcement of
the Canadian Environmental Protection Act,
(CEPA 1999) and regulations.

“Enforcement actions have been limited by longstanding problems
with the regulations, inadequate training of enforcement officers,
and lack of laboratory tests to verify compliance,” said
Mr. Vaughan.

The audit found that the Department lacks key information on
those it regulates-information that would help it target the
organizations whose activities pose the greatest risk of
environmental damage as a result of non-compliance. It also failed
to follow up on half of its enforcement actions to verify that
violators were now complying with CEPA regulations. In addition,
many regulations are enforced only if the Department receives a

Environment Canada is not measuring the
results of its enforcement activities and actions and does not know
whether they have achieved the program objectives of encouraging
compliance and minimizing damages and threats to the

The audit also found the department’sd enforcement program has
not been well managed to adequately enforce compliance with
the Canadian Environmental Protection Act,
 and ensure that threats to Canadians and their
environment from pollution are minimized.

“The Environmental Enforcement Directorate lacks key information
on regulated individuals, companies, and government agencies to
know whether it is targeting its enforcement activities toward the
highest-risk violators or the highest risks to human health and the
environment, as called for by Environment Canada’s own
environmental enforcement policy.”

It also found the Department’s enforcement actions were limited
by gaps in its capacity to enforce CEPA regulations. Many of the
factors it considers in setting priorities for enforcement have
nothing to do with risks to human health or the environment or with
the past record of compliance of those regulated. Instead, some
regulations are excluded from being priorities due to lack of
adequate training for enforcement officers or lack of adequate
laboratory testing to verify compliance.

Similarly, the Environmental Enforcement Directorate failed to
follow up on half of its enforcement actions during the audit
period to verify that violators returned to compliance with CEPA
regulations. In addition, often it did not apply key
management controls to ensure that enforcement officers applied the
Act in a fair, predictable, and consistent manner across the
country, as called for by the Act.

The Department has been slow to act on significant shortcomings
that continue to impede successful enforcement, such as inadequate
gathering and analysis of information to inform enforcement
planning and targeting, and inadequate training of enforcement
officers, said the audit report.

“The Canadian Environmental Protection Act is an important part
of protecting the health of Canadians and the quality of the
environment,” said Mr. Vaughan. “I am concerned that
shortcomings in key management systems have impeded the effective
enforcement of the Act.”

The chapter “href=”http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/parl_cesd_201112_03_e_36031.html”
target=”_blank”>Enforcing the Canadian Environmental
Protection Act, 1999
” is available on the Office of
the Auditor General of Canada website.

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