History

Activities over the last century have left an environmental legacy that includes toxic waste sites, abandoned mines, contaminated military installations, leaking fuel storage depots, and other hazards to human health and the environment.

In 1989, recognizing the need to take action, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) and the Government of Canada negotiated a joint five-year National Contaminated Sites Remediation Program (NCSRP) with all the provinces and territories. This program contributed to remediating orphaned high-risk contaminated sites (sites for which a responsible party could not be found, or where the property owner was unable or unwilling to finance remediation) while promoting Canada's environmental technology industry.

A total of 45 contaminated sites across Canada were addressed under the NCSRP. In addition, 55 site developments and demonstrations of remediation technology projects were undertaken. Under this program, a method for classifying contaminated sites according to their current or potential adverse impacts on human health and the environment was also developed.

In 1990, to address contaminated sites on federal Crown land, Environment and Climate Change Canada committed to assisting custodians (the federal departments, agencies and consolidated Crown corporations responsible for contaminated sites) with identifying, assessing, and remediating high-risk contaminated sites within their jurisdictions. As a result, 325 federal sites were investigated and remediation was initiated at 14 sites requiring immediate attention.

The creation of the Contaminated Sites Management Working Group (CSMWG) in 1995 was a major step forward in addressing federal contaminated sites. This group, made up of representatives from federal departments, agencies and consolidated Crown corporations, was instrumental in developing an interdepartmental strategy to deal with contaminated sites.

In spite of these early efforts, both the Auditor General and the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development remained critical of federal contaminated sites management. The primary concern was the absence of an adequate legislative framework and a clearly defined action plan to address federal sites.

The 2002 Report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development concluded that the federal government had failed to address federal contaminated sites adequately. Criticisms included a lack of information on the number of federal contaminated sites in Canada; the failure to produce an action plan to deal with high-risk sites in a timely manner; and the need for stable, long-term funding to manage the problem.

Recognizing the need for a coordinated approach to address these concerns, the government established the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan (FCSAP) in 2005.

Timeline

  • 1989: The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) and the Government of Canada negotiate a joint $250-million, five-year National Contaminated Sites Remediation Program.
  • 1990: Environment and Climate Change Canada commits $25 million over five years to assist custodians with identifying, assessing, and remediating high-risk contaminated sites within their jurisdictions.
  • 1995: Contaminated Sites Management Working Group (CSMWG) is created.
  • 1999: The Working Group releases A Federal Approach to Contaminated Sites (PDF; 276KB).
  • 2002: The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat launches the Federal Contaminated Sites Inventory (FCSI).
  • 2003: The Government of Canada announces funding of $175 million over two years in Budget 2003 to accelerate action on the highest risk federal contaminated sites.
  • 2004: Budget 2004 commits $3.5 billion under FCSAP.
  • 2005: The government launches FCSAP.
  • 2006: The Treasury Board introduces its Policy on the Management of Real Property that integrates all policies related to the management of federal real property including contaminated sites.
  • 2009: Budget 2009 commits $80.5 million in new funding over two years for program management and assessment activities.
  • 2011: Budget 2011 commits $149 million over five years of FCSAP Phase II for program management and assessment activities. An additional $500 million from Budget 2003 is made available for FCSAP remediation activities.
  • 2015: Budget 2015 commits $99.6 million over four years ($1.35 billion on a cash basis) to renew support for FCSAP Phase III.
  • 2016: Budget 2016 commits $217 million over two years, starting in 2016–17, to accelerate the assessment and remediation of federal contaminated sites.