16 Federal Regulators and Tribunals

Regulators are sometimes mistaken for a regulation itself.  They are separate concepts. Regulators are generally not elected but have the authority granted to them in an act or regulation to enforce or write regulations. This authority generally allows them to also enforce those regulations

As the Canadian constitution sets authorities and jurisdictions for the federal government and provinces, we have to examine both levels of government. In the United States, its constitution also sets out different authorities for federal and state, but the authorities are quite different than Canada.

Federal (Canada)

The Canadian federal government authorities are set by the Canadian constitution.  However, as noted earlier in this book, in 1867 environmental issues were not really defined.  Therefore the 1867 constitution did not cover environment, so today in Canada there is overlap between the provincial authorities and the federal authorities.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC)

Sometimes listed by the acronym ECCC, Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for federal environmental regulations and their enforcement (Canada, 2022).  They also are responsible for weather forecasting.  Overall they may be the most important environmental regulator in the federal government.  They include in their scope:

  • Waste management both interprovincial and working with the CCME on single use plastics
  • Canada’s commitment to many of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
  • Canada’s commitments to various environmental treaties
  • Protection of Canada’s coastlines
  • Working with the provinces and territories on implementation of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change

There is a lot of scope to their operations and you could read more at their website.

Parks Canada

Parks Canada is a regulator of the national parks.  The national parks protect 3% of Canada. Parks Canada is responsible for environmental protection in these areas (Canada, 2022). Parks Canada also have a role in climate change and advocate for natural solutions, and also to protect the parks from damage from a changing climate (Canada, 2022)

Health Canada

Health Canada has a mandate to protect the health of Canadians (Canada, 2022). This federal department works with the provinces and territories to manage health.  One environmental product they produce is the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality.  It is important to remember that this guideline is not the law.  It is only a law if adopted in provincial or territorial regulations.

Check out their web page at https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada.html

National Energy Board (NEB)

The National Energy Board (NEB) is now defunct, but was the federal regulator responsible for considering energy exports out of the country, interprovincial transport of oil and gas, and frontier oil and gas (Canada, 2019).  It was a true life cycle regulator covering everything from assessment, Duty to Consult, and to reclamation.

The NEB was replaced by the Canadian Energy Regulator in 2018 (Canada, 2019).

Canadian Energy Regulator (CER)

The Canadian Energy Regulator (CER) is the federal regulator who regulates the inter-provincial transport of oil and gas in pipelines and also electricity in power lines.  The CER also regulates the import and export of energy in the form of electricity, oil and natural gas. For these facilities, they are considered a life cycle regulator (Canada Energy Regulator, 2022).  However, an important distinction is that the CER is not the agency responsible for major facilities impact assessments.  That responsibility now rests with the IAA.

The CER also enforces orders under the National Energy Board Act that were made by the now defunct NEB.  New regulations are made under the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, SC 2019, c 28, s 10 (CER, 2022).  See also the chapter on oil and gas regulators.

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC)

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) regulates, under the authority of Nuclear Safety and Control Act (S.C. 1997, c. 9) the use of nuclear sources predominantly in nuclear power plants (Canada, 2022). While it is considered a life cycle regulator, the federal impact assessment agency is now responsible for impact assessments on large scale nuclear projects since the impact assessment act was enabled.

The CNSC does not regulate or deal with naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORMs).

Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) 

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) is defunct since 2019, but was the organization responsible for reviewing all federal environmental assessments under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) and Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA, 2012) except for environmental assessments for oil and gas and for nuclear.  These latter assessments were reviewed by the NEB and the CNSB respectively.

The CEAA, 2012 was replaced in 2019 by the federal impact assessment agency (IAA).

Impact Assessment Agency

The Impact Assessment Agency (IAA) which confusingly has the same initials as the act that created it, is responsible for overseeing all federal impact assessments.  They replaced and inherited the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency files and continue to review those projects started under the old CEAA, 2012.

It replaced the CEAA in 2019.  It also took over the project assessment duties from the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.  This bit of piracy happened with the enactment of the Impact Assessment Act.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO)

The Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), still affectionately known as the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, is responsible for protecting fish habitat and ocean health.  They are one of the oldest Canadian government departments.

Their authority is derived from the Fisheries Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. F-14).

Coast Guard (Canada)

The Canadian Coast Guard is a special agency of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.  They are responsible for patrolling Canada’s coasts, involved in search and rescue and will respond to environmental emergencies (Canada, 2022).

Canada’s Coast Guard differs slightly from the United States Coast Guard which appears to be organized on a more militaristic basis and which has significantly cooler gear like Black Hawk helicopters.

The Canadian Coast Guard is currently acquiring or building new ships with ice breaking capability (Canada, 2022).

Indian Oil and Gas Canada (IOGC)

Oil and gas is regulated on Indigenous reserve lands by the federal agency, the Indian Oil and Gas Canada. Geographically the IOGC regions are south of the 60th parallel across all provinces.

The IOGC is a federal agency and considers both the regulation of the industry and fiduciary duty to the Indigenous peoples (Canada, 2022).  See also the chapter on oil and gas regulators.

Section Conclusion

The federal government has many regulators. These listed are some of the more predominate of the regulators. Significant changes have occurred in the past 4 years as governments have added their agendas to the enabling acts.  There is currently much emphasis on consultation across all federal regulators, in particular the Duty to Consult.  Each regulator also have significant goals to achieve with respect to climate change.

Learning Questions

  1. Consider the goal of implementing  more electric vehicles.  Which department might be concerned?  (Hint it is not listed here)
  2. Consider the goal of lower carbon fuels.  Which department would be responsible for that goal?


Canada. (2022). Environment and climate change Canada home page. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change.html

Canada. (2022). Canadian coast guard home page. Retrieved from https://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/index-eng.html

Canada, (2022). Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality – Summary Tables. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/environmental-workplace-health/reports-publications/water-quality/guidelines-canadian-drinking-water-quality-summary-table.html

Canada. (2022). Health Canada home page. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada.html

Canada. (2022). Indian oil and gas Canada home page. Retrieved from https://www.pgic-iogc.gc.ca/eng/1100110010002/1100110010005

Canada. (2019). National energy board. Retrieved from https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/conservation/assessments/environmental-reviews/national-energy-board-modernization.html

Canada. (2022). Canadian nuclear safety commission home page. Retrieved from http://nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/acts-and-regulations/acts/index.cfm

Canada. (2022). Parks Canada home page, Retrieved from https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/index

Canada. (2022). Parks Canada science and conservation home page. Retrieved from https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/nature/science/climat-climate

Canadian Energy Regulator (CER). (2022). Home page. Retrieved from https://www.cer-rec.gc.ca/en/

Canadian Energy Regulator Act, SC 2019, c 28, s 10

Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, SC 2012, c 19, s 52 – repealed

Fisheries Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. F-14)

Nuclear Safety and Control Act (S.C. 1997, c. 9)


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