International Treaties

Sustainable Development

Environmental Law

Case Studies


Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Canada

    Federal and provincial/territorial governments are responsible for the protection of the environment in Canada and the enforcement of environmental law is accomplished through voluntary agreements and specific orders.

    Federal laws governing environmental protection include:

  • The Canadian Environmental Protection Act
  • The Fisheries Act
  • The Impact Assessment Act
  • The Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act
  • The Canadian Navigable Waters Act
  • The Species at Risk Act
  • Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act
  • Migratory Birds Convention Act
  • Nuclear Safety and Control Act
  • Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA)

  • Federal authorities are tasked with regulating the environment. Some of the regulatory bodies include Environment and Climate Change Canada; Fisheries and Oceans Canada; the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada; Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada; Transport Canada; Parks Canada and Natural Resources Canada. Regulatory officers are granted authority to investigate offences pursuant to the federal and provincial legislation.

Featured Legislation

1917: The Migratory Birds Convention Act was passed and updated in 1994 and 2005.

1921: The Lake of the Woods Control Board Act was approved, overseeing the regulation of water levels in Ontario, Manitoba, Winnipeg and the English Rivers.

1971: Canada enacted the Department of the Environment Act. The Act is overseen by the Minister of the Environment, who is responsible for preserving and enhancing the quality of the natural environment.

1973: The Canada Wildlife Act was implemented; the legislation ensures the preservation of vital habitats for bird and wildlife species, especially those that are endangered or threatened.

1985: The Canada Water Act and the International Rivers Improvement Act was passed.

1985: Canada passed The Fisheries Act, which governs the conservation and protection of fish habitats.

1985: The Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act was passed, with the hope of assisting Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AADC) in regulating waste from natural resources.

1992: The Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA) received royal assent, aiding Canada in meeting its obligations under The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

1999: The Canadian Environmental Protection Act was enacted, serving as a comprehensive framework for preventing pollution and protecting the environment and human health. The Act provides the legislative basis for federal environmental and health protection programs, relating to: the management of risks from chemicals, polymers and living organisms; air and water pollution; hazardous waste; air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions; Ocean disposal; and environmental emergencies.

2002: The Species at Risk Act (SARA) was passed; the legislation serves as Canada’s main conservation tool to protect species at risk, whilst preserving Canada's natural heritage.

2003: Canada passed the Antarctic Environmental Protection Act in an attempt to protect the Antarctic environment by implementing the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty.

2010: An omnibus bill, entitled the Environmental Enforcement Act, modernized and harmonized fine regimes and sentencing provisions of the following:

  • The Antarctic Environmental Protection Act (AEPA)
  • The Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act (CNMCAA)
  • The Canada National Parks Act (CNPA)
  • The Canada Wildlife Act (CWA)
  • The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA)
  • The International River Improvements Act (IRIA)
  • The Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 (MBCA)
  • The Saguenay-St. Lawrence Marine Park Act (SSLMPA)
  • The Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA).

2017: The federal government announced that Canada’s provinces and territories will develop their own carbon pricing system.

2018: The Ontario government announced that it would end its cap and trade programme.

2018: Environment and Climate Change Canada and the Canadian Crime Stoppers Association signed a memorandum of understanding which led to a more efficient system of detecting and reporting of crimes against federally protected wildlife. Poaching, smuggling, and trafficking of animals and plants runs rampant in parts of Canada and enforcement agencies are  working across the country to protect wildlife habitats from illegal destruction and pollution.

Each province and territory has enacted mechanisms for protecting the environment, along with environmental regulators:



British Columbia

Environmental Management Act


Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act


Environmental Management and Protection Act


Environment Act


 Environmental Protection Act and the Ontario Water Resources Act

Prince Edward Island

Environmental Protection Act


Environment Quality Act

New Brunswick

Clean Air Act and the Clean Environment Act

Nova Scotia

Environment Act

Newfoundland and Labrador

Environmental Protection Act

Canada withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol in 2011 but has ratified the Paris Agreement, and has made a  commitment  to reducing GHG emissions by 30% by 2030.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • British Columbia’s Minister of Fisheries and Oceans plans to phase out salmon farms in B.C.’s Discovery Islands by 2022. The Minister’s decision comes after prolonged consultations with the Homalco, Tla’amin, Klahoose, K’omoks, Kwaikah, We Wai Kai and Wei Wai Kum Nations who expressed concerns regarding the depletion of wild salmon stocks. Salmon farms present a threat to human security because these farms can introduce exotic diseases and exacerbate other diseases that impact wild salmon such as piscine orthoreovirus (PRV), a common and widely distributed virus of salmonids.
  • De Beers Canada’s Victor Mine is located in the James Bay Lowlands in the Attawapiskat watershed. The Victor Mine is the only diamond mine in Ontario, Canada, and has failed to report high levels of methylmercury, a toxin which bioaccumulates in aquatic life and humans. This is in complete violation of their environmental permits. As of 2021: Ecojustice, Canada’s largest environmental law charity, has launched a private prosecution against De Beers.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador’s Grand Banks and open oceans are extremely important marine environments, home to a variety of ocean life, including the endangered cod and humpback whales. in February 2018: the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador released a plan to increase oil production, enabling the construction of more than 100 new offshore exploratory wells by 2030. A Regional Impact Assessment (RIA) was unable to analyze the risks to the province’s ecology, restricting public engagement on important environmental issues. This serves as a clear violation of environmental justice.

References and Further Reading


Environment and Climate Change Canada: