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What is Environmental Law and Policy?

There are two main types of environmental law: legislation (or statutes) that are passed by our federal or provincial governments, and regulations that are made by cabinet ministers or by cabinet as a whole.

These two forms of law are closely related For example, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) creates a general framework for identifying and controlling toxic substances. However before a substance is subject to the requirements of CEPA, Cabinet must pass a regulation designating it as toxic.

Unlike law and regulations, policies are not legally binding. Policies tend to be used by government to elaborate its direction or goals with respect to particular problem or issue or as means of providing guidance to bureaucrats and the public as to how a law or regulation should be interpreted and applied in specific cases.

To understand how and why government decisions are made, citizens need to be aware of both the applicable policy and the relevant law and regulations.

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