Environmental scientists need to know their regulations.  Some scientists will even have to work with the legal system.  Even environmental researchers need to stay in compliance.  No matter the environmental field of study, environmental concerns are heavily regulated.

So, a career in environmental science will bring the professional into close contact with regulations.  Including regulating the profession itself.

The professional might be applying for a permit, completing a form or helping to keep an organization in compliance.  This means that every professional must have some understanding of the law and how regulations work.

We are going to examine the Canadian context.  Canada is heavily influenced by the United States of America (US) and by the United Kingdom (UK).  We have inherited a system that is based heavily on the UK experience, so the occasional UK reference is interesting.

The following chapters will help introduce some basic concepts and some important Canadian regulations.

But it is worth mentioning a couple of caveats:

  • this and all chapters are intended in context of Canadian regulations
  • this is not presented as a legal text, but more of a guide to Canadian regulators and regulations with some thoughts on our linkage with global legal regimes.
  • sometimes, you will need legal guidance. Clearly this is not legal guidance.
  • regulations and regulators change. So, it is important to look at the actual regulations and regulators.  This point cannot have enough emphasis.  Always check for the latest version of a regulation

I believe any regulation should have some clear parameters to be effective.  They should be:

  • understandable.  Some regulations will speak to some very technical topics.  But you should still not need a lawyer to understand how to stay in compliance
  • efficient.  Canada’s federal structure sometimes leads us to inefficiencies.  The classic example is that we have at least 14 major regulations on waste, one for each jurisdiction
  • enforceable.  Writing regulations that are not clearly enforceable does not help health, safety or the environment

Regulations set the bar for what is acceptable behaviour.  With environmental issues it is always good to remember these are the minimum standards.  They are not stretch goals or aspirational goals.  They should represent the minimum performance that is acceptable to society.  There are some environmental regulatory issues that can get confusing.  So we will try to identify some of the confusing areas:

  • some entities look like regulators but are not
  • sometimes it is challenging to understand who writes the regulations and which are really regulations?

At the end of each chapter there are some questions that will take your learning further.  Hopefully this book provides a roadmap to understanding some of the basics of Canadian environmental regulations. 


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Regulations and the Environment Copyright © 2023 by Tim Taylor is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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