Evironmental Law: Enforcement Measures and Effectiveness


Pollution, why is it still running rampant in our environment today ?
Are there no laws to control or stop it ? In regards to these questions,
Canada has a great many laws to stop and regulate pollution. But despite this,
why is it still happening. What are Canada's so called enforcement measures and
are they effective ? We have the Environmental Bill of Rights and the Canadian
Environmental Protection Act, just to name a few. Sure some polluters break
these laws and get caught, but all they get is a slap on the wrist; why is that
? Some even have the gual to pollute again. Acid rain and hazardous wastes
are just two of the many problems plaguing our environment today, but nothing is
really being done about them; why ? Finally what is the polluters point of
view in all of this ?
To begin with, in some areas there are both federal and provincial
legislation to ensure that companies and individuals respect the environment.
Federally the central piece of legislation in Canada is the Canadian
Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). "CEPA is the consolidation of five
statutes: The Environmental Contaminants Act, the Air Quality Act, the Canada
Water Act, the Ocean Dumping Act, and the Department of the Environment Act." (
Muldon, 1995, p. 23) The CEPA contains important penalties and sanctions;
provisions for the collection of information and for evaluation; provisions for
the control of importation and exportation of toxic substances; and provisions
for the reduction of wastes, the cleanup of coastal zones, the protection of the
ozone layer; the reduction of acid rain and urban smog; and provisions for the
development of regulations. All provinces and territories have enacted their
own legislation, establishing general environmental rights and responsibilities;
but the level of environmental protection established is not equal all across
Canada. Generally, it can be said that each province and territory regulates the
discharge of contaminants into the environment by requiring licenses and permits
and by invoking penalties. The regulated matters include environmental impact
assessment, waste management, drinkable water standards, and land conservation.
(Morrison, 1991, p24) Also, provinces and territories deal with several other
matters indirectly affecting the environment, such as the regulation of
commercial or industrial activities like mining, agriculture, and transportation.
In Ontario, the four main statutes are the Ontario Environmental Protection
Act (OEPA), the Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR), the Ontario
Environmental Assessment Act, and the Ontario Water Resources Act (OWRA). OEPA
provides for the protection of the natural environment, which is defined very
broadly. It also creates the Environmental Appeal Board. "OWRA is concerned
with the protection of all surface waters and ground waters. Both acts prohibit
the discharge of a contaminant into the natural environment that causes or is
likely to cause an adverse effect or that impairs or is likely to impair the
quality of the water." (Morrison, 1991, p. 33) The Ontario Environmental Bill
of Rights provides for increased public participation rights and creates the
Environmental Bill of Rights Commissioner. Moreover the EBR was established in
1993. "It represents a new era in environmental decision making...one
characterized by enhanced public participation, citizen empowerment, and greater
accountability of decision makers." (Muldon, 1995, p.15) The new rights and
responsibilities in the legislation require politicians, policy makers, lawyers,
activists, and citizens to rethink and modify their usual ways of looking at
environmental problems. It is hoped that the EBR will promote positive
strategies such as waste reduction, energy and water conservation, and "green"
industry development. (Muldon, 1995, p.16) Finally, there are also many
specific laws dealing with specific industries. Such as the Pesticides Act, The
Ontario Water Resource Act, the Energy Efficiency Act etc.
What happens to polluters who break these laws ? In Ontario most
environmental offenders break the laws outlined in the EPA. When they do, the
companies or persons are charged with the offenses committed and brought to
trial. In "Ontario there were 1, 546 charges laid in 1994 about half of those
were convicted. " (Parker, March, p.36) When found guilty the judge has a
number of ways to punish the offender. One of the ways are through fines. "In
the CEPA it permits fines of up to $1, 000, 000 for some offenses, while in the
most serious cases there is no ceiling on the amount of the fine that can be
raised." (Poch, 1989, p. 56) In the OEPA there is no set limit at which fines
can be set. In 1994 there was $ 2, 427,833 in total fines paid by offenders.
"The largest environmental fine in a contested hearing was to Robert Brown and
Robert Len Brown Construction Ltd. Fines had been set at $364,000 for numerous
offenses resulting from the