Environmental Protection Act

What is the purpose of the Environmental Protection Act?

The purpose of the Environmental Protection Act (EPA) is to support and promote the management, protection, enhancement and wise use of the environment, while recognizing the following:

  • Preventing, mitigating and remediating environmental impacts is important in making decisions and taking actions.
  • Where there are threats of serious or irreparable harm to the ecological integrity, lack of complete certainty is not to be a reason for postponing reasonable environmental protection measures.
  • All persons are responsible, financially and otherwise, for impacts on the environment as a result of their actions or inaction.
  • Administrative, management and regulatory processes need to be adaptive, responsive, fair, effective and timely.

Why do we need amendments to the Environmental Protection Act?

The current EPA was first enacted in 1973 and the last major revision was made in 1988. Amendments are required to enable the GNWT to assume responsibility for elements of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA).

The proposed amendments to the Act will increase coherence and consistency across legislation, based on best practices in Canada. The amended Act will result in improved implementation, enforcement and decision-making, leading to a more sustainably managed environment by enabling the GNWT to assume post-devolution responsibilities for land, air and water.

What are the key components of the Act?

The proposed amendments to the EPA will:

  • Provide a clear set of principles that are common in environmental protection legislation across Canada that must be followed when making decisions that are intended to ensure the environment remains protected.
  • Include provisions to address waste management.
  • Include provisions for the management of contaminated sites. 
  • Allow for the enforcement of guidelines and standards. 
  • Acknowledge and recognize Aboriginal and Treaty rights.
  • Establish broad authority for environmental protection.

What are the key differences from the current legislation?

  • The proposed amendments provide consistency with other GNWT legislation.
  • Under the amended Act, the Minister will be able to create standards related to the environment, including air, land and water.
  • The amended Act will allow exemptions for federally authorized activities under specific conditions.
  • The amended Act will explicitly recognize and affirm the protection of asserted and established Aboriginal and Treaty rights, along with the commitments of land claim and self-government agreements.