In Getting Tough on Environmental
Crime?, Ecojustice collates fragmentary, publicly
available information to show the marked decline in federal
environmental inspections and convictions since 2004. This includes
important federal environmental laws, such as the Canadian
Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), Fisheries Act,
Species at Risk Act, Canadian Wildlife Act,
Wild Animal and Plant Protection Regulation of International
and Interprovincial Trade Act, Canada Shipping Act,
and Migratory Birds Convention Act.
Ecojustice sums up its findings in two interesting graphs, found
at pages 62 and 63 of the full report, which show a marked decline
in the total number of inspections and convictions since 2004:
At page 69, Ecojustice highlights the discrepancy between the
low number of convictions under CEPA and the Fisheries
Act in relation to the number of inspections, warnings and
investigations. They ask, correctly, how effective warnings can be,
when successful prosecutions are rare. They also ask why
enforcement activity has declined, or at least not shown a
corresponding increase, despite increases in the number of
enforcement officers in some areas.
They conclude that the government should do much more to make
its enforcement activities transparent to the public, and should do
more to enforce environmental laws generally:
"Although the annual reports, Enforcement Notifications and
news releases provide a fragmented, incomplete picture of
enforcement (and no picture at all of compliance and facility
performance), our analysis has uncovered some key findings.
First, there are very few successful prosecutions under federal
environmental legislation in Canada. In particular, under the
Canadian Environmental ProtectionAct, the total number of
convictions (approximately 20 of each per year) is still extremely
small in relation to the number of inspections, warnings, and
investiga- tions. The same critique may be levelled as regards
Fisheries Act prosecutions and convictions.
Although we recognize that prosecutions are only one component
of Environment Canada's enforcement arsenal, its threat remains
a major factor in ensuring compliance. Since the threat of a
success- ful prosecution is crucial to the deterrent effect, these
low absolute numbers give rise to concern regarding the overall
effec- tiveness of the cepa enforcement regime. Ecojustice believes
that the available data raises serious doubts about whether pros-
ecution has been employed as an effective deterrent when just 23
convictions have been obtained over three past years, with an
average fine of $10,524 per conviction.
Second, the important increases in cepa enforcement officers,
which began in 2004-05, have only led to a slight increase in
inspections from 2000-10. More importantly, neither of the
increases in officers or inspections has been matched with a
correspond- ing increase in investigations, written warnings,
prosecutions or convictions. Over 10 years, the federal government
has added more officers and completed more inspections, yet the
numbers of investigations and prosecutions have failed to reach
levels achieved earlier in the decade. Warnings remain the most
frequently used enforcement tool. It is highly doubtful that this
is a result of the full compliance achieved by industry and other
Finally, it appears that there has been a relatively consistent
decline in these enforcement activities (warnings, orders, etc.)
since 2005- 06—the year the Conservative government came
to power—despite an increase in the number of inspector
personnel dedicated to specific statutes, particularly under
Canadians should be concerned by these findings."
We congratulate Ecojustice for this very useful report. Its
dispiriting conclusions dovetail with the report of the federal
Environmental Commissioner, and our own experience, and backs them
all up with carefully researched facts and figures, despite major
obstacles. We agree: Canadians should be concerned by
Ecojustice's findings. We are.
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