There are different laws which apply depending on what lands are affected. If there is contamination present on lands owned by the federal government, the Canadian Environmental Act, S.C. 1999, c. 33, as amended, will apply as to what guidelines are applicable to determine whether contaminants are at levels that are permitted or not. The federal Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change may also investigate offences under that statute where an individual has applied for an investigation. The statute also provides for a right for an individual to bring an environmental protection action if the Minister has failed to conduct the requested investigation or if the Minister’s response was unreasonable. The action may be brought against a person who committed the offence that was alleged in the application for investigation and that caused significant harm to the environment. The statute also provides a statutory right to bring an action to any person who suffers, or is about to suffer, loss or damage as a result of conduct that contravenes any provision of the Act or the regulations and allows for the seeking of injunctive relief to cease the offensive conduct or to prevent the loss. In addition to injunctive relief, the statute provides for a statutory cause of action to seek damages for the loss. The federal statute also gives authority for the issuing of charges and other enforcement measures which may be undertaken by federally appointed Enforcement Officers. It also provides authority for federal regulations and policy on environmental matters.
In Ontario, the governing legislation is generally the provinces’ Environmental Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E. 19. It is the regulations under this statute that contain the guidelines applicable to any non-federally owned lands in the province as to the allowable limits for contaminants. It is the provincial statute under which the provincial Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks is given authority to take administrative and enforcement measures in respect of lands and undertakings in Ontario. The provincial statute also provides for a statutory right of action, in s. 99, for the recovery of compensation for expenses incurred to remediate contamination from the polluter where the contamination is the result of a spill.