Federal spills-related legislation

The following federal legislation pertains to spills, industrial accidents and other environmental emergencies. Electronic copies of federal statutes can be obtained from the Department of Justice Canada.

Canada Shipping Act

Canada Shipping Act
S.C. 2001, c. 26

The Canada Shipping Act as well as its Oil Pollution Prevention Regulations and Pollutant Discharge Reporting Regulations are concerned with the discharge or dumping of oil or oily waste from ships. Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Transport Canada jointly administer and enforce this act. The following sections are relevant to marine environmental emergencies:

  • Part 8 pertains to the "discharge of a pollutant from a vessel, or a discharge of oil from an oil handling facility engaged in loading to or unloading from a vessel, that directly or indirectly results in the pollutant entering the water"
  • Section 167 pertains to discharges of oil
  • Section 169 pertains to response organizations and indicates that "the Minister may, in respect of any geographic area and in respect of a prescribed quantity of oil, issue a certificate of designation as a response organization to a qualified person"

Marine Liability Act

Marine Liability Act
S.C. 2001, c. 6

The Marine Liability Act is administered by Transport Canada and outlines avenues for liability and compensation for pollution. Sections relevant to marine environmental emergencies include the following:

  • Section 51 creates a legal liability on the part of the ship owner for oil pollution damage, the costs of clean up of a pollution incident, and, if the environment is impaired from oil pollution damage, for the costs of reasonable measures of reinstatement
  • Section 60 requires convention ships carrying more than 2000 metric tons to have a certificate of financial responsibility issued under Article VII of the Civil Liability Convention. The guarantors of such certificates are personally liable to claimants
  • Section 77 establishes the Ship Source Oil Pollution Fund
  • Sections 84 and 85 prescribe the circumstances under which a claim can be made against the Ship Source Oil Pollution Fund

Fisheries Act

Fisheries Act
R.S. 1985, c. F-14

The Fisheries Act, 1985 makes it illegal to harm fish habitats or fishing grounds. Environment Canada is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Fisheries Act as it pertains to spills and environmental emergencies. 

Migratory Birds Convention Act

Migratory Birds Convention Act
S.C. 1994, c. 22

The Migratory Birds Convention Act and its regulations make it an offence to deposit oil, oily waste or other substances harmful to migratory birds into water inhabited by migratory birds. This act is administered by the Canadian Wildlife Service of Environment Canada.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act

Canadian Environmental Protection Act
S.C. 1999 c. 33

The Canadian Environmental Protection Act is administered by Environment Canada. Part 4, which deals with pollution prevention, Part 5, which deals with controlling toxic substances, and Part 8, which deals with environmental matters related to emergencies, are relevant. In particular, the following sections are worth noting:

  • Section 56 provides authority to establish requirements for pollution prevention plans
  • Section 199 establishes requirements for environmental emergency plans
  • Section 201 establishes spill reporting requirements and also requires any person who owns or is in charge of a substance to take reasonable measures to prevent an environmental emergency and to cleanup a spill if one occurs
  • Section 203 provides for the recovery of costs and expenses incurred by government during cleanup or environmental remediation
  • Section 204 provides for the establishment of a national system for notification and reporting of environmental emergencies
  • Section 205 defines the civil liability of the person who owns or is in charge of a spilled substance. The spiller is liable for restoring any part of the environment damaged by the emergency and/or for costs and expenses incurred by a public body or agency in respect of measures taken to prevent and cleanup the spill

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act

Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act
S.C. 1992, c.34

The Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, administered by Transport Canada, promotes public safety during the transport of dangerous goods. The following sections of the act are relevant to environmental emergencies:

  • Section 7 requires any person transporting or importing dangerous goods to prepare an emergency response assistance plan and outline what is to be done if there is an accident transporting the dangerous goods
  • Section 14 clarifies that carriers of dangerous goods must be financially responsible and must provide evidence of financial responsibility when requested
  • Section 18 requires the person responsible for a material at the time of a spill to report the spill and take reasonable emergency measures to reduce or eliminate any danger to public safety
  • Section 19 allows an inspector to take emergency measures or request that emergency measures be taken by a person he/she considers qualified to do so

Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act

Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act
R.S. 1985, c.0-7

The Canada Oil and Gas Operations Act promotes safety, environmental protection, conservation of oil and gas resources, and joint production arrangements. The act is jointly administered by the Department of Natural Resources and Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada. The following sections are pertinent:

  • Section 14 allows regulations to be made prescribing measures necessary to prevent pollution of air, land or water as a result of the exploration and drilling for, or the production, storage, transportation, distribution, etc of any oil or gas
  • Section 25 prohibits a person from causing or permitting a spill and establishes a duty to report any spills that do occur. Reasonable measures must also be taken to respond to the spill and protect the environment. Section 25 also enables anyone other than the spiller to recover costs associated with responding to the spill