The protection of our health and environment is a fundamental right of all Canadians. The recent events of COVID-19 including the designation of essential and non-essential services, suspension of limitation periods in certain circumstances has businesses questioning what statues, regulations, standards or policies have continued to remain in force.
Generally, those environmental laws, regulations, policies, permits and standards that pertain to environmental protection, pollution prevention, biodiversity and conservation, and sustainable development whether federal or provincial remain in full force and effect. At this point, it is reasonably for all business operators to assume that the applicable environmental monitoring, reporting and permitting requirements continue to apply to their operations.
The province of Alberta however is one of the few provinces that recently suspended the reporting requirements under its environmental law regime. Alberta's approach is similar to that of the United States' Environmental Protection Agency that has suspended enforcement of several environmental obligations during the emergency measures put in place as a result of COVID-19.
It is important in determining the applicable regulatory requirements during COVID-19 that businesses review their current obligations and document all steps taken to maintain compliance.
On March 17, 2010 by Order in Council 519/2020 the Government of Ontario exercised its jurisdiction and declared an emergency under section 7.01.1 of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act ("EMCPA") in response to COVID-19. The EMCPA provides Ontario with the power to make emergency declarations and orders to protect the health and safety of all individuals in Ontario.
One of the initial changes under the EMCPA was the closure of all Provincial Parks. On March 18, 2020 Ministers Elliot and Yurek issued the following update on Ontario Parks in response to COVID-19 developments:
As COVID-19 continues to quickly evolve, we want to ensure public safety and the well-being of our visitors and staff in Ontario's provincial parks. In order to assist the province with it efforts to keep Ontarians safe during this time, all provincial parks will be closed to the public from March 19, 2020 until April 30, 2020. This includes car camping, backcountry camping, roofed accommodations, day use opportunities and all public buildings.
On March 30, 2020 the Government of Ontario extended the Declaration of Emergency and associated emergency measures, including the closure of non-essential workplaces and restrictions on social gatherings. On March 30, 2020 the Government of Ontario also issued a new emergency order to close all outdoor recreational amenities, such as sports fields and playgrounds. This new emergency order closed all communal or shared, public or private, outdoor recreational amenities.
Until any further notice all businesses operating in Ontario must continue to operate in compliance will their applicable environmental permits, licenses and approvals, including meeting the reporting requirements, except in circumstances where the regulatory requirements have been specifically suspended. The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks ("MECP") can continue to utilize all of its statutory and regulatory powers and authority. The framework for obtaining MECP regulatory approvals has not been amended or changed as a result of order.
If you have difficulty reaching a Ministry of the Environment Conservation and Parks' representative, Ontario has a general environmental search engine that directly links you to over 800 environmental matters, check out: https://www.ontario.ca/environment-and-energy/ministry-environment-and-climate-change-resources
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.