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Wild Animal Law of Canada

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Environment-Related Acts (Ontario)

(current to 15 September 2016)

Note Re Application of the following environment-related statutes:
  • Environmental Protection Act
  • Environmental Bill of Rights
  • Pesticides Act
This law bears on the wildlife issues of:
  • PROTECTION
  • HUMAN HEALTH
  • HABITAT
  • EXTERMINATION
The full current text of these statutes and their regulations may be viewed at the Ontario statute website.

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Table of Contents
1. Environmental Protection Act ('EPA')
(a) Overview
(b) Prohibitions and Protections
(c) Registries
(d) Enforcement
(e) Orders
(f) Civil Liability
2. Environmental Bill of Rights ('EBR')
3. Pesticides Act ('PA')
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1. Environmental Protection Act ('EPA')

(a) Overview

While not directly aimed at habitat protection, the EPA's primary purpose of the "protection and conservation of the natural environment" effectely targets habitat protection in most cases [EPA 3]. For this purpose, 'natural environment' means "the air, land and water, or any combination or part thereof, of the Province of Ontario" [EPA 1(1)].

Some sector-specific areas of EPA regulation include motor vehicles (combustion contaminant controls) [Part III of the Act], waste discharge over ice [Part IV], general waste management (including "ashes, garbage, refuse, domestic waste, industrial waste, or municipal refuse" and waste disposal sites) [Part V], renewable energy [Part V.0.1], ozone-depleting substances [Part VI], cessation of coal burning in power generation [Part VI.1], abandoned motor vehicles [Part VII], litter and packaging waste [Part IX] and pollutant spills [Part X].

As a practical matter, those facing animal-related EPA concerns would most commonly have recourse to the EPA where animals are being impacted by industrial pollution, toxins or similar substance-related harm. Even then they would have to locate the substances within the extensive EPA Regulations [click the Regulations Tab] to see how the problem is regulated and what can be done about it.

(b) Prohibitions and Protections

The following prohibitions and environmental protections are set out in the EPA:
  • "(n)o person shall discharge into the natural environment any contaminant ... in an amount, concentration or level in excess of that prescribed by the regulations", except "in accordance with both normal farming practices" and as per the Nutrient Management Act [EPA 6(1,2)];

    For these purposes, 'contaminant' means "any solid, liquid, gas, odour, heat, sound, vibration, radiation or combination of any of them resulting directly or indirectly from human activities that causes or may cause an adverse effect" [EPA 1(1)].

  • to "use, operate, construct, alter, extend or replace any plant, structure, equipment, apparatus, mechanism or thing that may discharge or from which may be discharged a contaminant into any part of the natural environment other than water" is prohibited without an environmental compliance approval to that effect, with some exceptions [EPA 9];

  • any person who discharges into the environment "any contaminant in an amount, concentration or level in excess of that prescribed by the regulations" shall report that fact to the Ministry [EPA 13];

  • it is prohibited to "discharge a contaminant or cause or permit the discharge of a contaminant into the natural environment, if the discharge causes or may cause an adverse effect", with exceptions [EPA 14].

    For these purposes, 'adverse effect' means, as it relates to wild animals and their habitat, one or more of [EPA 1(1)]:
    • impairment of the quality of the natural environment for any use that can be made of it;

    • injury or damage to property or to plant or animal life,

    • rendering any property or plant or animal life unfit for human use.
(c) Registries

The EPA requires that the Director maintain a public registry called the Environmental Activity and Sector Registry containing documentation relating to activities not requiring a fuller environmental compliance approval made under the EPA [EPA 20.20-20.21].

(d) Enforcement

For enforcement purposes, the Minister had a broad range of authority, including those of investigation, research, conducting studies, conducting conferences, issuing information packages, making grants and loans and other ancillary powers directed at administering and enforceing the EPA [EPA 4]. In practice these powers are delegated to several 'Directors', and in turn their delegates such as on-the-ground provincial officers ('POs') [EPA 5(1,4)].

POs have investigation and prosecution powers, as well as the typical regulatory officer range of authority over entry, inspection, search and arrest [EPA 5(5), Part XV].

Dismissal, discipline, penalizing, coercing or intimidating of an employee because they comply or may comply with duties imposed on them under the EPA and related environmental statutes constitutes an unjust dismissal and can ground a lawsuit by the employee, or a complaint to the Ontario Labour Relations Board [EPA 174].

In addition to prosecution of a broad range of EPA offences [EPA 186], violators may also be subject to environmental penalties [EPA 182.1], administrative penalties [EPA 182.3], and property damage restitution Orders [EPA 190.1].

Directors and officers of corporations are under a separate legal duty to "take all reasonable care to prevent the corporation from ... discharging or causing or permitting the discharge of a contaminant" in violation of the EPA, or otherwise generally violating the EPA [EPA 194].

(e) Orders

Where a PO reports that an illegal discharge of contaminant into the natural environment is occuring, the Director may issue a control Order [EPA 7]. Where the contaminant "constitutes, an immediate danger to human life, the health of any persons, or to property", then the Director may issue a stop Order [EPA 8].

Where "any person causes or permits the discharge of a contaminant into the natural environment, so that land, water, property, animal life, plant life, or human health or safety is injured, damaged or endangered, or is likely to be injured, damaged or endangered" the Director may issue a remedial Order to repair or prevent the injury or damage [EPA 17].

Fuller details of control and stop Order procedures are set out in Part XI.

(f) Civil Liability

"(T)he Crown, the Minister or an employee or agent of the Crown" are immune from civil liability for "anything arising out of or in relation to a matter carried on or purported to be carried on pursuant to a regulation that exempts a person from the requirement to obtain a licence, environmental compliance approval, renewable energy approval or permit" [EPA 177.1].

Employees of the Ministry, provincial officers, and public servants acting in good faith under EPA authority are immune from civil liability for any actions done or neglected to be done "in the execution or intended execution of any duty or authority under this Act"[EPA 180].


2. Environmental Bill of Rights ('EBR')

The Environmental Bill of Rights ('EBR'), like the EPA (above), is not directly targeted at protecting wildlife habitat, although any positive impact on the environment can't really help but benefit wild animals as well.

The EBR is a unique-to-Ontario statute which provides oppourtunities for public and NGO input into the environmental law-making and policy-making process. It also contains provisions for the following:
  • the creation of a public Environmental Registry that contains extensive environmental legal documentation such as new laws, regulations, policies, programs, proposals, decisions, EBR lawsuits and a wealth of addtional related documentation [EBR 6];

  • the right of any two citizens to request from the Environmental Commissioner an investigation of environment law violations [EBR 74];

  • a private right of action for environmental harm caused by environment law violations [EBR 84, EBR Part VI];

  • ostensibly, an abolition of the public nuisance tort standing requirement that a plaintiff suffer 'special damage' before they can advance an action [EBR 103].

    With respect to both of these latter tort provisions, few to no successful actions have been advanced in the 20 years since the EBR has been in force.

3. Pesticides Act ('PA')

The primary purpose of the Pesticides Act ('PA') is to regulate the sale and use of pesticides, which are defined as "any organism, substance or thing that is manufactured, represented, sold or used as a means of directly or indirectly controlling, preventing, destroying, mitigating, attracting or repelling any pest ... and includes any organism, substance or thing registered under the Pest Control Products Act (Canada)" [PA 1(1)]. For this purpose, 'pest' is "any injurious, noxious or troublesome plant or animal life" [PA 1(1)]. By their nature, 'pest animals' tend to be wild animals, and to that extent the PA deals with their extermination.

Generally, exterminations and running an extermination business may only be conducted under PA-issued license or permit [PA 5,7]. However, even under a license or permit it is prohibited to "discharge or cause or permit the discharge of a pesticide or of any substance or thing containing a pesticide into the environment that" (in relevant parts) [PA 4]:
  • cause impairment of the quality of the environment for any use that can be made of it greater than the impairment, if any, for such use that would necessarily result from the proper use of the pesticide;

  • cause injury or damage to property or to plant or animal life greater than the injury or damage, if any, that would necessarily result from the proper use of the pesticide;

  • renders any property or plant or animal life unfit for use by humans to a degree greater than the unfitness, if any, that would necessarily result from the proper use of the pesticide.
Anyone who "discharges a pesticide or a substance or thing containing a pesticide in or into the environment out of the normal course of events" that "causes or is likely to cause injury or damage to property or to plant or animal life" must report this to the Director [PA 29].

For enforcement purposes, provincial officers (POs) appointed under the PA may issue compliance Orders [PA 26.1], and control Orders [PA 28]. Where they are of the view that an emergency exists by reason of "injury or damage or immediate risk of injury or damage to any property or to any plant or animal life" (amongst other grounds) respecting the "handling, storage, use, disposal, transportation or display of a pesticide" then a PO or the Director may issue a stop Order [PA 27]. As well, 'repair, cleaning and decontamination' Orders may also be issued where discharge of a pesticide causes or is likely to cause injury or damage to animal life [PA 30].


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