S-5: Senate strengthens environmental protection laws
Bill S-5, known as the Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act, received Royal Assent on June 13.
Bill S-5, Government legislation to update the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, was introduced in the Senate on February 9, 2022. Notably, the legislation aims to strengthen Canada’s chemicals management regime and recognizes that Canadians have a right to a healthy environment. It allows the Government to respond effectively to new science, which points to harms that were unanticipated in the past, and to enables the use of new tools and sources of information that are now available to assess those risks.
The Senate’s Role
Senator Stanley Kutcher took on a leadership role as sponsor of Bill S-5. In a study spanning more than 20 hours, the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources adopted 39 amendments aimed at improving and strengthening the legislation. That includes changes to increase transparency, accountability and public participation.
The Senate sent the bill to the House of Commons on June 22, 2022. Since then, the bill has been further strengthened as a result of more debate, study and additional amendments. The House of Commons accepted 22 of the Senate’s amendments. For example, it supported an amendment proposed by Senator Rosa Galvez to replace the proposed approach, which would have “balanced” the right with other factors, with the more familiar approach of making the right “subject to reasonable limits.” The House of Commons accepted another amendment to add the principle of intergenerational equity to the list of principles to be considered in the administration of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. The remaining 17 Senate amendments were either clarified, altered or reversed.
Bill S-5, known as the Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act, received final approval when the Senate accepted the position of the House of Commons on June 13.
Senator Marc Gold, the Government Representative in the Senate, noted that this new and improved law is the result of collaboration during the legislative process.
“Bill S-5 has been strengthened by the rigorous study by both chambers and by the participation of Canadians in this legislative process. This new bill will provide Canadians with an environmental protection law that confronts 21st-century issues with 21st-century science,” he said.