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Sustainable Development Strategy, 1997-2001
Safeguarding our Assets, Securing our Future

Our Strategy for the Future


The challenge facing all federal departments developing their sustainable development strategies is to translate ideas and principles into a workable framework with measurable goals and plans of action. This part of the paper identifies the steps required to move from concepts to concrete activities. Specifically, this section proposes:

  • a series of operating principles for sustainable development;
  • a framework of goals and objectives; and,
  • an action plan for the next three years.

Defining the Challenge

A starting point for our strategy is to develop a more precise explanation of how we will apply the concept of sustainable development to our work in the field of natural resources. In applying the Brundtland definition of sustainable development, we propose the following interpretation shown below.

Operating Principles

NRCan adopts and endorses the following principles to guide its work in promoting the sustainable development of natural resources:

Partnership and consultation:
Sustainable development demands cooperation and open consultation. We will pursue federal responsibilities that contribute to sustainable development in partnership with a diverse array of stakeholders. We will consult with our partners to understand their needs and to build consensus on common objectives and actions. An informed, involved and aware public is essential to achieving sustainable development.

Sustainable Development of Natural Resources – What It Means

The sustainable development of natural resources will enable us to protect the health of the natural environment and landmass, while efficiently meeting human needs for energy, forest and mineral-based products and providing similar opportunities for future generations.

The sustainable development of natural resources requires that Canada:
  • maintain up-to-date knowledge as the basis for responsible decision-making;
  • locate and harvest or extract resources in a way that maintains the integrity of natural ecosystems and protects soil, water, air and wildlife;
  • produce, use, recycle and dispose of natural resource products throughout their life- cycle in the most efficient manner possible, minimizing adverse human-caused impacts on the environment;
  • maintain innovative, globally competitive and ecologically responsible resource-based industries;
  • respect the needs, values and property rights of diverse users of the land and resources;
  • involve local communities in making decisions that affect their quality of life and long-term viability; and,
  • safeguard the well-being of Canadians in developing and using natural resources.

Integrated decision-making:
A sound economy and a healthy environment are mutually supportive. We will make decisions based on sound economic, environmental and social principles, relying on tools such as environmental assessment and scientific assessments of risk. We will improve our ability to analyze decisions for their life-cycle environmental impacts, their full costs and benefits, and their implications for society.

Science as the basis for decision-making:
As a science and technology department, we recognize the importance of basing our decisions, policies and programs on the best scientific information available. Science is an important part of risk assessment. However, we also endorse the precautionary principle: where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, we will not use a lack of full scientific certainty as a basis for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

Ecosystem integrity:
We recognize that resource development must remain within the capacity of natural ecosystems to respond, adapt and recover from human disturbance while maintaining the basic ecological functions that support life.

Efficient use of resources:
We will promote policies, practices and technologies that reduce consumption and make the most efficient use of natural resources in order to support a sound economy, while minimizing wastes and adverse impacts on the environment. We will promote pollution prevention, as opposed to clean-up, to avoid or minimize the creation of waste and pollution and to make more efficient use of resources.

Continuous improvement and innovation:
Sustainable development is not a fixed state, nor will it be achieved through a one-time effort. Our commitment to sustainable development will be based on an openness to new approaches and will continually be updated and adapted to reflect new knowledge, technology, information and ideas.

Within our defined role, we will develop clear action plans outlining what we propose to do, by when, and provide indicators to measure results. We will monitor the outcomes of our activities, taking corrective action where necessary, and publicly report on our progress.

We will uphold our responsibility to provide a legacy for future generations in terms of their natural heritage, economic opportunities and social well-being.

Our Goals and Objectives

This section outlines the goals and objectives that reflect the issues we think need to be addressed, within the context of NRCan's mandate. These are the areas where we will focus our energies and activities:

NRCan's Sustainable Development Goals
  • Making Better Decisions
  • Sustaining Economic and Social Benefits
  • Maintaining a Healthy and Safe Environment
  • Putting Our House in Order

The strategy outlines each of the four goals. For each goal we identify the specific objectives we are proposing to help us reach them. We also describe the actions we will undertake by the year 2000 (unless stated earlier) to achieve these objectives. Appendix B identifies the indicators we will use to measure and track our progress.

Making Better Decisions

Enabling Canadians to make balanced decisions regarding natural resources.

Sustainable development is, ultimately, about making better decisions. This requires open and balanced debates about the social, economic and environmental impacts of development. People need access to the best available scientific and community-based knowledge ­ in an easily understood format ­ on which to base their decisions. Sharing knowledge and expertise will improve dialogue among all parties and lead to better decision-making.

NRCan's role is to influence the resource development decisions of federal and provincial governments as well as industry and consumers. It does so by providing information and scientific knowledge, by promoting consensus on key issues and actions, and by supporting innovative policies that actively promote sustainable development.

NRCan's Sustainable Development Objectives:

1.1 Creating easily accessible and integrated knowledge on the state of Canada's landmass and natural resources, and the economic, environmental, and social dimensions of their use.

1.2 Promoting greater national and international cooperation and consensus on sustainable development issues and actions.

1.3 Developing and promoting fiscal, regulatory and voluntary approaches that encourage the sustainable development of natural resources.

1.1 Knowledge for Sustainable Development

Broadening our knowledge base

NRCan collects and provides a vast array of data on Canada's natural resources. This information ranges from national statistics on resources, production and use, to geological data on Canada's landmass, to remote sensing data and satellite imagery, to topographical maps and national atlases of Canadian geography.

Traditionally, information on Canada's natural resources has focused more on the physical and economic dimensions of resource development ­ estimating the volume of timber in a given area, the size of mineral and oil deposits, or projecting energy consumption. We need to expand the information available to include the environmental aspects of resource use, as well as social considerations such as the importance of forests for recreation, and the vast wealth of traditional ecological knowledge that resides in many rural, Aboriginal and northern communities.

Monitoring the state of the environment is a growing challenge. Environment Canada and the provinces play the lead role but NRCan also contributes to this work through its geoscience and mapping of Canada's geology, and by monitoring the health of forest ecosystems. Remote sensing also provides a means to monitor the effects of natural or human activities, and provide permanent records of environmental change.

Criteria and indicators are another important tool. They identify and measure the key environmental, economic and social values essential to achieving sustainabledevelopment. In 1996, the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers (CCFM), after a broad two-year consultation, released a national framework of 6 criteria and 83 indicators to measure and report on the key components of sustainable development of Canada's forests. Canada's first report on these indicators was released in the Fall of 1997.

Sustainable development also demands that we expand our analytical tools to provide better information on the environmental and economic outcomes of development, the impacts of different products over their entire life-cycle, the full environmental costs and benefits of decisions, and benchmarks by which to measure progress.

Knowledge made easy

It is not enough to generate knowledge; it must be put in the hands of decision makers in an accessible and easily understood form. For example, the Standing Committee on Natural Resources, in its 1997 report, Think Rural!, highlighted access to the Internet and information networksas critically important for the development of Canada's rural communities.

Assembling and integrating the vast array of information about the interplay of soils, water, vegetation, air and climate, geology, land use, energy, social and economic considerations ­ currently collected by numerous organizations ­is complex and time consuming.

New initiatives, using digital data and technologies such as the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure, will make it possible to exchange geographic data on the information highway among user groups, stakeholders, resource managers and academia on all the factors which go into development decisions.

With new information technology, the potential exists for the public to have user-friendly access to the most up-to-date data from various sources. Through the National Atlas Information Service ( and SchoolNet ( on the Internet, students and the public have access to information about all aspects of Canada's geography and resources. Increasingly, technologies will provide powerful tools to improve dialogue among Canadians, leading to more environmentally and economically sound decisions.

Action Plan 2 0 0 0

1.1 Creating easily accessible and integrated knowledge on the state of Canada's landmass and natural resources, and the economic, environmental and social dimensions of their use.

NRCan will:
  1. Launch a new Knowledge Initiative to better integrate and make publicly accessible its knowledge across the Department; by 1998, consult with stakeholders and complete an inventory of our knowledge holdings.
  2. Develop the Canadian Geospatial Data Infrastructure (CGDI) to provide national access to geographic information, in partnership with provinces, territories, and other federal departments; by 1999, complete the NRCan portion of the CGDI.
  3. Undertake the first national survey of energy use in commercial buildings; by 1998, finalize the design of the survey.
  4. Launch new reporting on the health of Canada's forest ecosystems; by 1998, publish the First National Forest Health Assessment.
  5. Report on progress in the sustainable development of Canada's resources: with CCFM, report on 6 criteria and 49 indicators of sustainable forest management; in consultation with various stakeholders develop sustainable development indicators for energy and minerals and metals.

1.2 Building Consensus and Cooperation

A major theme throughout the consultations on this strategy was the need for greater cooperation among different levels and departments of government, communities, industry and other organizations. This reflects, in part, the public's desire to have a more direct say in the development and use of Canada's resources, most of which are owned by governments on behalf of Canadians.

Reconciling competing social, economic or environmental values can be difficult. It demands increased collaboration among government departments and enhanced public participation and decision-making processes.

NRCan can contribute to sustainable development by bringing together diverse interests to forge national consensus on key issues, develop common strategies and promote cooperation in areas of national concern. For example, the National Forest Strategy and the Whitehorse Mining Initiative resulted in a broad consensus among different stakeholders on key issues and actions to promote sustainable development in forestry and mining. The national network of Model Forests is also exploring new approaches in decision-making by involving over 250 organizations in the management of ten large forest areas.

The need for cooperation is not restricted to Canada. Nations can no longer ignore the impacts of their development on the world's environment but must address common issues through joint action. Such action must recognize the globalization of world economies and markets, as well as the wide differences among nations.

Canada plays an active role in discussions to address global environmental concerns. Our country was an active participant in the Earth Summit (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Commitments from UNCED, such as Agenda 21, as well as legal agreements on biodiversity and climate change, and a voluntary statement of principles on forestry, have particular significance for natural resource development.

NRCan, in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT), is actively involved in a number of fora to promote cooperation on natural resource issues as well as to encourage the exchange of knowledge and the transfer of science and technology. For example, in 1997, Canada hosted a meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Energy Ministers to discuss key sustainable development issues. Canada played an important leadership role in the United Nations (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Forests, established to examine global forest issues and, with many other countries, continues to press for immediate negotiations on an international convention on forests. NRCan was also active in organizing a 1997 workshop and meeting of Mines Ministers of the Americas to promote more sustainable mining practices in Canada and South America.

Canada cooperates with international bodies including the International Energy Agency, the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Forum for Chemical Safety, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and others.

Action Plan 2 0 0 0

1.2 Promoting greater national and international cooperation and consensus on sustainable development issues and actions.

NRCan will:
  1. Promote a national dialogue with provinces and territories, and stakeholders on key sustainable development issues facing the natural resource sectors, such as climate change, energy futures and technology, and value-added industries.
  2. Prepare, with CCFM, a new National Forest Strategy based on public consultations; in 1998, the strategy will be released at a "National Forest Congress."
  3. With DFAIT, consult and present Canadian positions on the sustainable management of forests at meetings of the United Nations Intergovernmental Forum on Forests, due to report in 2000.
  4. Promote international cooperation on the sustainable development of minerals and metals; in consultation with the provinces and stakeholders; by 1998:
    • Pursue the implementation of the Arequipa Declaration of the Mines Ministers of the Americas and Action Plan, including a workshop on the Safe Use Principle; and,
    • Host the third annual meeting of APEC's Groups of Experts on Mineral and Energy Exploration and Development, to be focused on sustainable development.

1.3 Creating A Climate for Sustainable Development

The federal government ­ through its policies, regulations and research, its promotion of non-regulatory initiatives and its use of financial incentives ­ helps set the rules by which resource development decisions are made.

Economic and market-based instruments

In 1994, the government created a Task Force on Economic Instruments and Disincentives to Sound Environmental Practices to review federal taxes, grants and subsidies.

Since then, significant reforms have been undertaken, particularly with respect to energy.

In response to a report by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development ("Keeping a Promise: Towards a Sustainable Budget"), the Government of Canada committed departments to continue their examination of the environmental impacts of taxes, grants and subsidies (baseline study) as part of their sustainable development strategies. (See NRCan's Baseline Study.)

Go to NRCan's Baseline Study of Taxes, Grants and Subsidies

Environmental regulation

Environmental regulation through legislation such as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA), the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), the Fisheries Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act, is another key means by which the federal government can influence sustainable development decisions. NRCan provides scientific and technical expertise to support the development of sound environmental regulations and policies. It has actively contributed to a number of recent initiatives such as the federal government's new Minerals and Metals Policy of the Government of Canada, the Toxic Substances Management Policy, the renewal of CEPA, the management of toxic substances under the Strategic Options Process, and the transboundary shipment of hazardous waste. NRCan supports the development of an efficient regulatory system, based on sound science and the assessment of risk to human or environmental health.

In response to the 1996 report of the House of Commons Standing Committee entitled Streamlining Environmental Regulations for Mining, NRCan is working with the Departments of Environment, Health, Fisheries and Oceans, and others to provide a more efficient and effective regulatory regime for mining. The goal of this work is to streamline the regulatory process while ensuring a high level of environmental protection. NRCan is also supporting efforts underway, through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) and within the federal government, to better harmonize federal and provincial environmental legislation to reduce delays, costs and uncertainty while ensuring a high standard of environmental protection.

Environmental assessment plays a particularly important role in integrating environmental considerations into development decisions. Under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) the federal government is required to do an assessment of projects where it provides funding or land, issues a licence or permit, or a strategic environmental assessment of its policies and programs.

NRCan has provided expert advice (in geology, chemistry, engineering, biology, etc.) to public review panels conducting environmental assessments of over 50 major development projects. These include off-shore oil and gas projects such as Hibernia, Terra Nova and Sable Island, as well as pipelines, uranium mines, and major new mining developments including Voisey's Bay and the BHP diamond mine.

An emerging challenge, particularly for projects in Canada's North, is the integration of traditional knowledge into environmental assessment. NRCan will work with DIAND and others to develop practical approaches.

Voluntary and other instruments

Voluntary environmental programs provide a proactive commitment to protect the environment beyond what is required in legislation or regulation. NRCan promotes voluntary measures as a complement to efficient regulation and contributes to a number of voluntary initiatives such as:

  • the development of standards on sustainable forest management, under the auspices of the Canadian Standards Association;
  • the Voluntary Challenge and Registry (VCR) to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases;
  • the Energy Innovators program to upgrade the energy efficiency of industrial and commercial buildings; and,
  • Environment Canada's Accelerated Reduction/Elimination of Toxics (ARET) program to reduce emissions of key pollutants.
Action Plan 2 0 0 0

1.3 Developing and promoting fiscal, regulatory and voluntary approaches that encourage the sustainable development of Canada's natural resources.

NRCan will:
  1. In cooperation with Finance Canada, continue the baseline study of taxes, grants and subsidies in the resource sectors:
    • compile a detailed catalogue of federal, provincial and territorial fiscal systems applying to the upstream oil and gas industry by 1998; and,
    • with the CCFM, the National Round Table and others, review income tax polices related to private woodlots to determine their impact on sustainable forest management practices.
  2. Promote the use of voluntary and innovative policy instruments for environmental management, as a complement to regulation:
    • examine the feasibility of a national system of tradeable permits for greenhouse gas emissions, with Environment Canada and others, by 1998;
    • contribute to the Conference Board of Canada's research program to assess the optimal mix and use of policy tools for environmental protection in 1998 and 1999; and,
    • promote voluntary measures within the resource sectors to conserve wildlife habitat and protect endangered species, in cooperation with Industry Canada and Environment Canada.
  3. Report to federal and provincial mining ministers on a national review to improve the regulatory system related to mining, by 1998.
  4. Complete the Energy Chapter of the Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT), which will include provisions for cross-territory electricity transmission and increase the efficiency of electricity markets across Canada, in cooperation with provinces, by 1998.
  5. Develop with other government departments, an international sea-bed mining code as well as a plan to produce the marine geoscience information required to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, by 1999.

Enhancing Long-term Social and Economic Benefits

Sustaining the economic and social benefits from natural resources for present and future generations.

The resource sector is a cornerstone of our economy, integral to job creation and community development. Sustainable development should result in resource-based industries that make fewer demands on the environment, create new economic opportunities and provide greater stability to Canadian communities.

Sustainable development is also grounded in the reality that we must maintain our ability to compete on world markets and have assured access to those markets if Canadians are to continue to enjoy our high standard of living and quality of life.

NRCan's Sustainable Development Objectives:

2.1 Creating economic opportunities and encouraging investment in innovative and higher-value uses of natural resources.

2.2 Maintaining and expanding access to international markets for Canadian resource-based products, knowledge, technologies and services.

2.3 Building the capacity of Aboriginal, rural and northern communities to generate sustainable economic activity based on natural resources.

2.1 Sustainable growth and investment

Long-term resource supplies

To "meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs" requires long-range planning to assure a long-term supply of natural resources.

In the case of mineral and energy resources, this involves encouraging exploration to find new reserves and developing technologies to extend the life of existing reserves. NRCan provides the geological information to identify potential new sources of minerals and energy as well as environmentally-sensitive areas. An estimated $876 million was spent on non-fuel mineral exploration in Canada in 1997. While NRCan will continue to provide information necessary to locate new reserves of minerals and energy, it must also work to reduce the need for resource development by promoting alternative sources, increased efficiency, reduced consumption and recycling (as identified elsewhere in this strategy).

Another opportunity is the development of less traditional sources of energy resources such as in the off-shore areas of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, the oil sands in Alberta, or renewable energy alternatives including wind and solar power (Figure 8). Again, sustainable development requires that we develop these resources in such a way as to address environmental and social concerns.

Figure 8

For example, the federal government's response to the national Oil Sands Task Force resulted in important regulatory and tax changes that the Task Force estimates could lead to $25 billion in new investment over the next 25 years. Production of oil sands is expected to double by 2020, and will account for 36 per cent of our oil production, up from its current 20 per cent. NRCan is a partner in the Canadian Oil Sands Network for Research and Development to address environmental issues related to expansion of the oil sands.

In forestry, assuring a long-term supply of wood fibre for products demands that harvests remain within levels the forest can regenerate, while reducing losses due to fire, insects and disease, and increasing yields. NRCan conducts research into biotechnology to develop new trees that grow faster and are more resistant to insects and disease, and new harvesting practices that better protect the biodiversity of forest ecosystems.

Innovation and value added

Canada will continue to be an important and competitive supplier of traditional resource commodities including oil, natural gas, pulp, lumber, uranium, iron ore and base metals such as nickel. However, our ability to provide long-term economic and social benefits for Canadians is directly linked to the resource sector's competitiveness and its capacity to develop innovative, greater value and environmentally-sound products and services.

The Standing Committee on Natural Resources, in its report Think Rural!, concluded that value-added processing can be a key generator of jobs in rural regions. It noted that the challenge is to expand resource-based primary industries and complement them with new economic opportunities. For example, in 1996, value added products made up less than 5 per cent of exports of Canadian forest products. Technology, innovation and research were identified as being particularly important in generating value-added industries.

This potential is, in part, demonstrated by the growth of the geomatics industry. Canada is a leading developer and user of computerized geographic information systems which integrate satellites, computer networks and other high-tech tools for mapping and planning in land and resource management. Canada's geomatics industry is growing 20 per cent annually and now includes 1,500 firms with 15,000 employees generating over $1 billion in annual sales.

Another example is Canada's renewable energy industry. This sector includes 200 companies employing 4,000 people who, in 1994­95, produced $800 million of goods and services, 23 per cent of which were exported.

Natural gas - used both as a fuel and in the production of higher value-added transportation fuels and chemicals - is an area with great potential. However, the technology to convert natural gas is energy intensive. NRCan has formed an international consortium to develop new processing technologies, and to share risks and costs.

Another growth area is the metals recycling industry, a $3 billion a year business involving 1,000 companies employing an estimated 15,000 Canadians. Similarly, Canada has emerged as the leading center for financing and investment in mining, and is an important supplier of engineering informatics and legal services specialized in natural resources.

The resource sectors can continue to be a major part of Canada's emerging knowledge-based economy by developing innovative products and services that are more environmentally sound and which capitalize on new technologies and scientific research.

Action Plan 2 0 0 0

2.1 Creating economic opportunities and encouraging investment in innovative and higher value uses of natural resources.

NRCan will:
  1. Promote greater value added-processing of Canada's natural resources by developing:
    • new, higher value products and processes for minerals and metals such as a high-performance steel and a non-explosive rock breaking technology (electric pulse blasting);
    • viable, more energy efficient technologies for the conversion of natural gas to value-added liquid fuels, fuel components, petrochemicals and synthetic gas; and,
    • a strategy to increase value-added for Canadian forest products, in cooperation with industry and governments, by 1999.
  2. Encourage the growth of industries using innovative and environmental technologies for natural resource development by:
    • implementing a federal strategy on forest biotechnology, including technology transfer and use of biotechnologically-engineered forest products, by 1998;
    • completing a study to analyze the links and opportunities between environmental industries and the resource sectors, by 2000; and,
    • assessing the potential for a national strategy to promote greater recycling of metals, in consultation with other departments, industry, provinces and municipalities, by 1999.
  3. Develop technologies that reduce energy consumption, lower carbon dioxide emissions and reduce costs of producing transportation fuels, oil sands and heavy oil, in partnership with the province of Alberta and industry.
  4. Promote the sustainable development of energy from Canada's off-shore and frontier areas, by:
    • passing 14 regulations regarding exploration;
    • reviewing all offshore oil and gas developments to ensure that local and Canadian companies are given the opportunity to bid on contracts and apply for available jobs; and,
    • providing worker training to upgrade skills to qualify for employment in the emerging offshore oil and gas industry, in partnership with Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

2.2 Trade and markets

In 1996, Canada's energy, minerals and metals, forest and geomatics industries exported products worth $98 billion, contributing over $65 billion to Canada's positive balance of trade (Canada's trade surplus in 1996 was $41.9 billion) (Figure 9).

Figure 9

With increasingly liberalized trade as a result of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and APEC, Canada is widening its network of trading partners and broadening opportunities for trade, technology development and investment.

Traditional barriers to markets - such as tariffs - are falling. However, there are concerns that new barriers may be erected as environmental issues become important trade issues. NRCan, in cooperation with DFAIT, encourages expanded trade and investment that is environmentally responsible, and is based on a level playing field and sound science.

For example, a major problem has developed regarding international trade in recyclable metals related to regulations under a global agreement known as the Basel Convention. Two-way trade in metal recyclables for Canada is worth $3 billion annually (See The Basel Convention).

Similarly, some countries are seeking to ban specific minerals (e.g. asbestos). In accordance with the Safe Use Principle, the Government of Canada has stated that "minerals and metals, in and of themselves, are not candidates for bans, phase-outs or virtual elimination." The Government recognizes, however, that "there are instances where certain products containing minerals and metals, or their uses, because of the associated risks, may be candidates for bans, phase-outs or virtual elimination of releases from specific anthropogenic sources."

Hundreds of millions of dollars of lumber exports to the European Union are threatened by a ban due to a small pest, called the Pinewood Nematode. Science is playing a key role in addressing issues, such as these, that may restrict trade.


Go to The Basel Convention

Action Plan 2 0 0 0

2.2 Maintaining and expanding access to international markets for Canadian resource-based products, knowledge, technologies and services.

NRCan will:
  1. Safeguard and improve Canada's trade and investment position in natural resources; the Minister of Natural Resources, in cooperation with DFAIT, will lead two Team Canada international trade missions with an emphasis on small and medium sized companies in natural resource and related industries.
  2. Promote the sustainable development of minerals and metals internationally:
    • providing technical training on acid mine drainage and life cycle assessment, and advice on ISO 9000 accreditation for the Canada-Brazil Project for Sustainable Development in the Minerals Sector, by 1998;
    • providing baseline assessment and technical training in chemical analysis and environmental management, and by showcasing Canadian technologies and expertise for the Canada-Argentina Project for Technology Transfer in the Minerals Sector, by 1999;
    • developing internationally-recognized protocols for heavy metals and the classification of risks posed by persistent organic pollutants, by 1999; and
    • negotiating provisions for the sound management of minerals and metals in the "Prior Informed Consent Convention", and the UNEP - sponsored global convention on 'persistent organic pollutants'.
  3. Increase international acceptance of Canadian wood product standards by supporting research by Forintek Canada Corporation that generates data for input into national and international building codes.
  4. Provide key markets with balanced and accurate information on Canadian forestry practices, in partnership with CCFM and DFAIT, through the International Forest Partnerships Program; participate in a series of 6 workshops in Germany and, host a Forestry Fact Finding Mission of foreign stakeholders by 1998.
  5. Implement a business development strategy to support and promote the geomatics industry's access to international contracts and markets.
  6. Under APEC, encourage harmonization of testing methods for energy efficiency standards throughout the region and promote best practices in energy regulation; negotiate lower tariffs and eliminate unsound non-tariff barriers to trade and investment for natural resources.
  7. Develop and adopt, for use in Canadian and international policies, a new definition of "waste" that will not restrict the recycling of low risk, metal-containing materials.

2.3 Building capacity in resource-based communities

Rural communities

Rural Canada represents about 20 per cent of the employed workforce, one-third of the Canadian population and about 90 per cent of Canada's landmass. Some 500 communities across Canada are dependent on mining, forestry and energy for their livelihood (Figure 11). Although the average per capita income in rural Canada is $2,600 lower than the Canadian average, some resource-based communities - especially in mining - boast some of the highest average salaries in the country.

Figure 11

In its 1997 report entitled, Think Rural!, the Standing Committee on Natural Resources identified some of the unique constraints and priorities facing rural communities. Several of the recommendations related to natural resources including: providing greater access to information networks; encouraging renewable and community-based energy sources; promoting the sustainable harvesting of natural resources; implementing tax measures to support oil sands development; conducting research into improved resource harvesting practices; and, creating partnerships to develop new value-added products.

Aboriginal communities

Aboriginal people have a special relationship with the land and a unique contribution to offer to environmental decisions surrounding resource development. Sustainable development acknowledges the need to work with Aboriginal people to address issues related to land and resource use, to increase their participation in economic activity and to ensure the benefits of natural resource development are more equitably shared. Both the National Forest Strategy and the Whitehorse Mining Leadership Accord, as well as the government's new Minerals and Metals Policy, encourage a greater role for Aboriginal people in resource development in Canada.

Consultations on sustainable development with Aboriginal communities in southern Canada were coordinated and conducted by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND). The recent report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples also provides a comprehensive review and numerous recommendations. Several of the recommendations touch on natural resources including the sharing of land and resources, economic development, self-government and financing. The Government of Canada is developing its response to the Royal Commission's recommendations.

NRCan has a number of on-going partnerships to secure a greater role for Aboriginal people in the development of natural resources.

DIAND, NRCan and First Nations jointly manage a sustainable forest management program on reserve lands. There are numerous First Nations participating in this initiative. The management of reserve lands can provide jobs and income for local communities as well develop skills applicable to resource management in other areas. It is recognized that this program does not respond to the needs of Aboriginal people who do not live on reserves, such as the Métis. In addition, it is acknowledged that some reserve lands are too small to be economically viable on their own. Access to off-reserve lands and resources, through the negotiation of land claims or co-management agreements with governments and industry, can increase job opportunities and incomes for Aboriginal communities.

To further build the capacity of Aboriginal communities on sustainable forest management, the Waswanipi Cree Model Forest, Quebec, was established in September 1997.

As part of the Canadian Model Forests network, it will focus on the same objectives of self-governance, partnerships and planning for sustainable forest management, but will particularly link traditional values to conventional forestry. It is an opportunity to strengthen Aboriginal leadership in sustainable forest management.

In support of the land claim process, NRCan provides the legal surveys necessary to delineate boundaries for land claim settlements, and trains Aboriginal people in land management and survey techniques. In addition, NRCan is working with the provinces to promote greater partnerships between mining companies and Aboriginal communities. NRCan also supports Aboriginal communities' efforts to become more energy efficient through community-based, district-heating projects, such as with the Cree Nation community of Ouje-Bougoumo, which heats 150 homes using wood waste from local saw mills.

Northern communities

The north has vast mineral, oil and gas deposits (Figure 12 and Figure 13). In the past few years, there has been a dramatic increase in resource exploration and development. After government, mining is the single largest employer in the North. However, there is also a continuing reliance on renewable resources in most communities, both for subsistence and commercial purposes including forestry, fishing, hunting, trapping, the harvesting of wild-harvested foods and the sale of art and crafts.

The Northern environment is particularly susceptible to pollution; cold conditions make the Arctic act as a sink for many pollutants. Pollutants transported over long distances are becoming evident in some wildlife populations, raising concerns about the health risks of traditionally-harvested foods which make up a large portion of the local diet.

Figure 12

The completion of a network of protected areas in the North will help ensure the protection of unique, representative areas, as well as bringing greater certainty for resource development in other areas.

The Department currently supports sustainable development in the Canadian Arctic by providing geoscience information for both resource development and environmental protection, science and technology related to resource development, and community-based energy technologies that reduce demand for imported fossil fuels. In addition, NRCan provides logistical support for research in the North through the Polar Continental Shelf Project (see The Arctic: NRCan's Polar Continental Shelf Project).


Go to The Arctic: NRCan's Polar Continental Shelf Project

The North is undergoing extensive legislative and institutional change. Many responsibilities for resource development are being transferred from the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) to other levels of government. The changes include the devolution of powers to the territorial governments, the creation of Nunavut in the eastern Arctic, the signing of land claims agreements and the creation of Aboriginal self-government arrangements. As a consequence, local communities will have a greater voice in development decisions in the North.

During consultations in the North, views were expressed supporting the need for continued resource development but not at the expense of protecting the environment. Communities want traditional ecological knowledge incorporated into decisions surrounding resource development.

Traditional knowledge is described by the National Aboriginal Forestry Association as "a body of information about the interconnected elements of the natural environment which traditional indigenous people have been taught from generation to generation, to respect and give thanks for."

NRCan will contribute to DIAND's efforts, under its sustainable development strategy, to develop a policy for the use of traditional knowledge in resource management.

These collective changes will require NRCan to establish new partnerships in the North with emerging territorial governments and Aboriginal organizations.

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2.3 Building the capacity of Aboriginal, rural and northern communities to generate sustainable economic activity based on natural resources.

NRCan will:
  1. Organize workshops on the sustainable development of natural resources as part of the Arctic Council's May 1998 International Sustainable Development Conference in Whitehorse, Yukon.
  2. Assess the resource potential of frontier areas and provide a basis for sustainable development in northern communities by:
    • compiling integrated information on the geology, hazards and permafrost conditions of the Yellowknife area, by 1999; and,
    • completing a federal-territorial-Inuit supported compilation of northern Baffin Island geoscience, by 1999.
  3. Deliver the First Nations Forestry Program, in partnership with Aboriginal people, to enhance self-reliance in forest management, develop forest-based businesses, and provide economic and traditional land-use opportunities on and off-reserve, between 1997 and 2001.
  4. Reduce barriers that restrict the use of renewable energy in Aboriginal and remote communities through information transfer, technical training and other support.
  5. Complete land surveys on Canada lands where required by DIAND for the settlement of comprehensive land claims and provide training and skills development opportunities for Aboriginal people in land management and surveying.
  6. Develop, in partnership with other federal departments, provincial and territorial governments, and local communities, the ability for Aboriginal, rural and northern communities to use geospatial data and information technology to more effectively plan and manage natural resource development, land-use, and environmental and health protection.


Maintaining a Healthy and Safe Environment

Minimizing the impacts of natural resource development and use on the environment and the safety of Canadians.

The environment is constantly undergoing change - some of it as a result of natural processes, and some caused by human activity. We know the environment can adjust to human and natural stresses, provided these stresses remain within the ability of ecosystems to adapt and renew themselves. This puts the onus on us to develop natural resources in a way that respects and protects the integrity of natural ecosystems.

NRCan's Sustainable Development Objectives:

3.1 Helping limit and adapt to climate change.

3.2 Promoting technologies and stewardship practices that reduce environmental impacts, conserve biodiversity and increase the efficiency of resource development and use.

3.3 Safeguarding Canadians from natural hazards and the risks associated with natural resource development and use.

3.1 Mitigating and Adapting to Climate Change

Canada, along with more than 150 other nations, signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992. The Convention's objective is to return net greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000.

Few developed countries, including Canada, will be able to meet this goal. In 1995, Canada's emissions of greenhouse gases were nine percent higher than 1990 levels. Estimates are that Canada's emissions levels will be roughly eight per cent above 1990 levels by the year 2000 - an improvement over previous estimates of 13 per cent, but above the stabilization target. (Figure 6). (See The Climate Change Challenge, in Part I.)

In 1994, Canada tabled its first National Report which outlined its responses to climate change. That was followed, in 1995, by Canada's National Action Program on Climate Change which prescribed strategic directions for governments and the private sector to address climate change science, greenhouse gas emission mitigation, and adaptation to climate change. In April 1997, NRCan and Environment Canada released Canada's second National Report.

NRCan coordinated the preparation of a Federal Action Plan on Climate Change which includes activities in the areas of energy, environment, forestry, agriculture and transportation. The federal government is committed to reducing emissions from federal operations, by at least 20 per cent from 1990 levels, by the year 2005. The Government expects to surpass this objective.

NRCan scientists are studying trees, rocks, glaciers, sediments and other materials to learn how the global climate has changed throughout history, in order to better understand and predict future climate changes. In addition, satellite imagery and remote sensing techniques help to identify and monitor climatically sensitive areas and establish a knowledge base for input to Global Circulation models.

Canada's response to the climate change challenge is coordinated through federal/ provincial/territorial Ministers of Energy and Environment, who developed and administer the National Action Program on Climate Change. At the group's December 1996 meeting, the Government of Canada announced 45 new initiatives and improvements to existing programs. The measures include an information program to boost fuel efficiency in transportation, regulatory measures to increase residential and commercial energy efficiency, a strengthened voluntary program and numerous initiatives to involve the public and communities in reducing greenhouse gases.

Climate change concerns extend beyond national boundaries. It is a global problem that will require extraordinary levels of international cooperation. Canada accounts for about 2 per cent of the global emissions of greenhouse gases, although it has less than one per cent of the population. As worrisome as these figures are, they are dwarfed by those of other nations. By comparison, China's emissions are expected to grow annually at a rate equal to 50 per cent of Canada's total annual emissions.

Negotiations are underway to amend the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change to include commitments by developed countries beyond the year 2000 and to increase global efforts to reduce emissions.

In December 1997, Canada will participate in the Third Conference of the Parties in Kyoto, Japan to negotiate legally-binding commitments that extend beyond 2000. In preparation for Kyoto, Canada consulted with world leaders and with provinces, territories, industry and environmental organizations, representatives from which are participating in the Canadian delegation to Kyoto. In Japan, Canada will work toward a comprehensive, legally-binding international agreement which will recognize the importance of strong actions to reduce emissions, while providing necessary flexibility so that targets can be met in the most cost-effective way.

Fulfilling any new, binding commitments agreed to in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997 will not be easy. Almost 90 per cent of our greenhouse gas emissions come from the way we use energy. This reflects the reliance of our economy on energy intensive, natural resource-based industries - approximately 30 per cent of our exports are from energy intensive industries - as well as our small population spread over a vast geographic area, our cold climate and our lifestyle choices, such as urban design.

Taking action on climate change requires cooperation from governments, industry, environmental groups, scientific agencies and the general public. Canada's action plan following Kyoto will need to be strengthened in full consultation with all Canadians, as many of the changes will have a direct impact on our lifestyles and choices as consumers, including the way we use energy to heat our homes, run our transportation and operate our businesses. Canada's response will need to be based on a clear understanding of both the economic and environmental costs and benefits.

Responding to climate change can be beneficial, by reducing the costs of doing business while spawning new business opportunities in the marketing of green technologies, services and products. Economic opportunities may open up for industries based on energy efficiency and alternative energy techniques such as vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells, or electricity generated from sources low in greenhouse gas emissions such as hydro, solar, wind or nuclear power.

NRCan's science and technology will play a key role in understanding and mitigating climate change. Increasingly, our scientists are identifying how Canada can adapt to the potential impacts of climate change, which could have an adverse impact on Canadian landmass, forests, water resources, agriculture and fish stocks.

Issues for further research include: permafrost - assessing the potential impact on infrastructure; groundwater - determining the impact of lower water tables; agriculture - studying the impact of soil changes and ecozone migration; and coastal zones - assessing the impact of climate change on the coastal regions of Atlantic Canada and the Beaufort-Mackenzie Region.

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3.1 Helping limit and adapt to climate change.

NRCan will:
  1. Update Canada's National Action Program on Climate Change to fulfill commitments agreed to at the Third Conference of the Parties in Kyoto, Japan - in partnership with provinces, industry, environmental groups and other federal departments - by 1999.
  2. Organize a Technology Futures Multi-stakeholder Process to identify promising technology options and assess their potential contributions to reducing emissions, in 1998.
  3. Increase the efficiency of Canada's energy use as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by:
    • announcing new energy efficiency initiatives, by 1998, as a follow-up to the 1997 Budget announcement of $60 million in new funding over three years for energy efficiency and renewable energy;
    • expanding the energy efficiency regulations to cover additional equipment and increase the energy efficiency of equipment under existing regulations.
  4. Broaden our scientific understanding of climate change and its impacts by:
    • completing the Palliser Triangle study in the southern Prairies; by 1999 produce a CD ROM of results and provide information for the next phase of the Canada Country Study to assess impacts and adaptation; and,
    • analyzing the impact of climate change on forest ecosystems by developing a carbon database for Canadian forest soils and associated analytical models.

3.2 Reduce Environmental Impacts

Pollution prevention

The federal government has recognized that "preventative environmental care" must be the focus for the future. To prevent pollution, as opposed to cleaning it up after the fact, we must focus on the use of processes, practices, materials, products or energy that avoid or minimize the creation of pollutants and waste to reduce the overall risk to human health and the environment (Figure 14). NRCan with its scientific, technical and policy expertise develops technologies and promotes practices that minimize impacts on the environment.

Figure 14

Within the different natural resource sectors, the priority issues vary considerably. In the minerals and metals sector, the rehabilitation of mining sites is a top priority. Each year, the Canadian mining industry produces about 500 million tonnes of waste rock and tailings. Much of this is broken rock and earth and does not pose risks to the environment. However, seepage from some of these sites is acidic and can contain heavy metals which, if not treated, can threaten the environment. New technologies and practices such as those developed under the Mine Environment Neutral Drainage (MEND) program, are being developed to decommission and rehabilitate mine sites in order to abate the environmental impacts of mining operations.

In the field of energy, advanced combustion technologies are being developed to reduce emissions from fossil fuels, while the development of alternative and renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, small hydro and biomass will help reduce fossil fuel use. Although utilization of renewable forms of energy grew on average 3.4 per cent annually between 1980 and 1995, Canada still derives only about 6 per cent of its energy from renewable sources. A new Renewable Energy Strategy, released in 1996, is aimed at encouraging the increased use of renewable energy sources.

In forestry, efforts focus on developing forest practices that protect the integrity of natural ecosystems and the ecological processes necessary to their renewal. New practices include developing natural alternatives to chemical pesticides, as well as innovative harvesting techniques that replace clear cutting, to maintain aesthetic values while protecting wildlife and ecological functions. Canada's network of eleven Model Forests cover more than 6 million hectares and provide large-scale testing grounds for new, more sustainable forest practices.

Resource efficiency and recycling

Encouraging consumers to cut back consumption, and use resource products responsibly, contributes to more efficient use of Canada's resources. NRCan offers a range of energy efficiency programs from regulating the energy efficiency of home appliances to improving industrial energy efficiency through measures such as the Industrial Energy Innovators Initiative. NRCan also provides consumers with information on reducing energy consumption, such as the Auto$mart program for cars and the Reno$ense program for homes.

NRCan's Federal Buildings Initiative (FBI) helps federal departments to reduce energy consumption in federal facilities and encourages its replication at the provincial and community levels. The private sector will invest $125 million to upgrade federal buildings which will, in turn, reduce energy costs by $20 million annually.

The potential growth in end-use energy consumption in 1995 from 1990 levels was reduced from 12 per cent to 7.5 per cent due to energy efficiency measures - enough energy savings to heat one-third of all homes in Canada (Figure 15). These improvements in energy efficiency mean that growth in carbon dioxide emissions was 3.5 per cent lower than it otherwise would have been over the period 1990-1995. However, as a result of population growth and an expanding economy, overall energy use still increased.

Figure 15

Using resources more efficiently can also result in less harvesting or extraction, reduced levels of disturbance to natural ecosystems, reduced amounts of pollution and lower costs which make companies more competitive on global markets. New technologies as well as improved extracting and processing methods, recycling and re-using materials contribute to more responsible use of resources (Table 3).


Table 3
Environmental Benefits of Metal Recycling
  Aluminum Steel
Energy Conservation

Material Conservation

Reduction in air emissions

Reduction in effluents

95 per cent

79 per cent

95 per cent

97 per cent

74 per cent

90 per cent

86 per cent

40 per cent

Source: Natural Resources Canada

NRCan's policies, programs and technologies support recycling and encourage efficient resource use during extraction, processing, manufacturing and final consumption.

The federal government's Science and Technology Strategy highlights the potential of new technologies to help industry make significant gains in their eco-efficiency within the next generation. Eco-efficiency is a concept promoted by the World Business Council on Sustainable Development to significantly reduce the ecological impacts and resources required to produce goods and services, and to increase both economic and environmental performance. Eco-efficiency allows firms to produce more from less resources, thereby reducing costs and improving productivity.

The principle of life cycle management offers another tool to use resources more efficiently. The life cycle concept is a "cradle to grave" approach to thinking about products, processes and services. It recognizes that the environmental and economic impacts of resource development must be assessed throughout all stages of a product's life including extraction, processing, manufacturing, transportation, use, reuse, recycling and waste management. A life-cycle assessment can quantify the energy and resource inputs and outputs, at each stage, as the basis for improving both environmental and economic performance (Figure 16).

Figure 16 - Life Cycles of Minerals and Metals

Recycling can extend the efficient use of forest products and metals, reduce the need to harvest or extract new sources of timber or minerals, reduce pressures on landfills and incinerators, and result in energy savings. Resource recycling is now a big business in Canada. One-half of all iron and steel produced domestically is from recycled and scrap metals. More than 11 million tonnes of metals, valued at more than $3 billion annually, are recycled in Canada. The use of recycled paper in newsprint manufacturing more than doubled in Canada between 1991 and 1995 (Figure 17).

Figure 17


Canada was the first industrialized country to sign and ratify the International Convention on Biological Diversity. Biodiversity refers to the variety of different species, their genetic makeup and their habitat. The Canadian Biodiversity Strategy outlines how Canada will implement its commitments under the Convention. Canada's pledge to set aside 12 per cent of the country's land in protected areas will influence how we develop energy, mineral and forest resources in future. These areas must be representative of Canada's different natural regions.

Forests are particularly important to Canada's biodiversity, given that they cover one half of the country and are home to two-thirds of Canada's estimated 300,000 species of animals, plant and micro-organisms. Forests stabilize the climate, recycle nutrients, clean the air and water, protect the soil, and supply food and habitat for wildlife.

The National Forest Strategy and the Whitehorse Mining Initiative (WMI) support working towards completing a national network of protected areas by the year 2000. The WMI also endorses developing scientific criteria for the selection and addition of new parks. NRCan's new Forest Biodiversity Research Network will try to develop a better understanding of how forest ecosystems maintain diversity, determining what roles are played by each species within an ecosystem and advancing strategies for sustainable development.

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3.2 Promoting technologies and stewardship practices that reduce environmental impacts, conserve biodiversity and increase the efficiency of resource development and use.

NRCan will:
  1. By 1998, launch a new program to encourage the use of renewable energy and develop, with industry, cost-effective renewable energy technologies such as bioenergy, small hydro, wind, photovoltaic and active solar.
  2. Implement a new Post-MEND program to transfer field project technologies to prevent and reduce acidic drainage, in partnership with the Mining Association of Canada, by 1998.
  3. Report on options to control the harmful effects of air emissions from copper and zinc smelters, as identified under the Priority Substances List (PSL-2) process, by 2000.
  4. Develop technologies to significantly reduce the weight of automobiles by utilizing advanced applications, such as forming technologies for aluminum sheet metal application, to create more energy-efficient automobiles, in partnership with industry, by 2000.
  5. Implement a second five-year phase of Canada's Model Forest Program and explore, with stakeholders, its evolution in promoting best forest practices in Canada, from 1998-2000.
  6. Develop alternative harvesting practices that will provide forest managers with harvesting options to reduce the use of clear cutting as well as provide a natural means to reduce losses from insects and weeds.
  7. Through Forintek Canada Corporation, conduct a study to increase the use of bark waste in wood composite material.
  8. Develop an action plan to fulfill federal forestry commitments in the Canadian Biodiversity Strategy. The action plan will be developed in consultation with various stakeholders.
  9. Establish a 3-year Diesel Exhaust Emission Program (DEEP) to reduce pollution from diesel exhaust, by 1998.
  10. Complete a review of the international use of eco-efficiency within the natural resource sectors to identify opportunities to use eco-efficiency to improve environmental performance and competitiveness, by 1999.

3.3 Safeguarding the Public

Canadians depend on a healthy environment for clean air, and safe water and food. Available information indicates the risks to health from our environment are relatively low for most Canadians.

Contributing to public health and safety comes down to reducing the risk of human exposure to harmful substances and managing the risks inherent in any such exposure. Measures currently exist to protect us from health hazards that have been recognized and documented. The challenge is to continue to refine our knowledge of existing health hazards and to evaluate and assess new threats as they emerge.

Metals and the environment

Metals occur naturally in the environment. In fact, trace amounts of a number of minerals and metals are essential to all life forms. Yet the extraction and processing, as well as particular uses, of certain minerals and metals can result in adverse effects on human health and the environment. The federal government is committed to mitigating these effects through an improved scientific understanding of the role and behaviour of these substances, and through risk-assessment and risk-management approaches.

Risk assessment includes evaluating the probabilities and magnitude of adverse effects resulting from exposure to a substance from a process or product. Risk management involves deciding what action to take, factoring in the magnitude of adverse effects as well as legal, economic and sociological factors. It also includes developing techniques for containment, mitigation and remediation.

Nuclear safety

Nuclear-generated electricity provides close to 20 per cent of Canada's total electricity needs and over 60 per cent of the electricity requirements of the province of Ontario.

The Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) is the federal agency responsible for ensuring that the development and use of nuclear power in Canada does not pose an undue risk to the health and safety of workers, the public or the environment. The AECB requires licensees to meet specific health, safety, environmental and security standards. The federal government has recognized the need to update the legislation governing the regulation of the Canadian nuclear industry, and, in March 1997, passed the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. The new law is expected to come into force in late 1998 following finalization of regulations under the Act.

In addition, the federal government finances nuclear research by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) to support the maintenance and safe operation of Canadian CANDU nuclear reactors at home and abroad, extend the useful life of reactors, and reduce capital and operating costs.

Nuclear power generation does not emit greenhouse gases nor produce acid rain. However, nuclear energy, like all forms of energy, has environmental impacts that must be managed. The proper management of radioactive wastes is essential. These wastes include uranium mine and mill tailings, low-level radioactive wastes, and spent nuclear fuel. AECL has developed a proposal for the long-term disposal of nuclear waste, deep underground.

This proposal will require: public and regulatory acceptance of the proposed technologies; decisions about who should undertake and finance the disposal; and, identifying possible sites for radioactive waste disposal facilities. These activities will be carried out under the Radioactive Waste Policy Framework, approved by the Government of Canada in 1996.

Natural Hazards

Just as important as protecting the environment from human activities is the need to protect Canadians from natural hazards. Natural hazards, such as forest fires, often pose threats to human health and safety. In 1994, some 6 million hectares of forest were burned. NRCan provides tools and support systems to predict and control the impact of fires on affected communities.

Geological hazards - earthquakes, landslides, etc. - also have significant implications for both the environment and human health and safety. For example, some 400 deaths in British Columbia were directly attributable to landslides over the past 100 years. A major earthquake in Vancouver could result in damages in the range of $30 billion for infrastructure, as well as $100 billion in property damages, before the human costs of such a catastrophe could even begin to be calculated.

NRCan provides scientific information on hazards which occur naturally, and points to potential problems which could arise if development - such as the construction of pipelines, roads, dams, etc. - were to take place in high-risk zones.

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3.3 Safeguarding Canadians from natural hazards and the risks associated with natural resource development and use.

NRCan will:
  1. Modernize regulations governing the nuclear industry with respect to health, safety and environmental protection, by 1999.
  2. Implement the Policy Framework for Radioactive Waste and, based on the recommendations of the federal environmental assessment report due in 1998, develop financial and institutional arrangements for the disposal of used nuclear fuel in Canada.
  3. Clean-up and rehabilitate historic waste sites in Canada through the continued operations of the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Office.
  4. Launch a new Metals in the Environment Research program to better understand the sources, sinks and pathways of metals in the environment, and the relative contribution of metals from natural and human sources, by 1998.
  5. Support the creation of an International Lead Management Centre to reduce the risks to human health from exposure to lead.
  6. Undertake research on risk assessment and emergency survival and evacuation procedures for frontier oil and gas exploration and development.
  7. Produce a natural geological hazards atlas summarizing information on natural hazards (e.g. earthquakes, landslides) in Canada.
  8. Develop models to monitor and predict the behavior of extreme forest fires that threaten communities.

Putting Our House in Order

Establishing NRCan as a leader in the federal government in managing its operations in line with the principles of sustainable development.

The federal government is this country's largest single enterprise. The way departments operate their facilities, manage fleets, dispose of wastes, and purchase goods and services can significantly influence Canada's ability to achieve its sustainable development goals. As part of its contribution to the federal Greening of Government Initiative, NRCan is committed to integrating environmental considerations into its day- to-day activities. It will put in place environmental management systems that ensure departmental operations uphold sustainable development principles.

NRCan's Sustainable Development Objectives:

4.1 Using leading-edge environmental management tools and practices for NRCan operations.

4.2 Reducing wastes from NRCan operations.

4.3 Increasing the efficiency of energy and other resource use in NRCan operations.

4.4 Promoting the use of goods and services that are eco-efficient

4.1 Integrating the Environment into NRCan Operations

The federal government's Code of Environmental Stewardship provides guidance to departments to help them integrate environmental considerations into their management practices and operations. Each department must develop policies and practices that help guide employees in their daily decisions and activities.

NRCan has developed an Environmental Management System to ensure its operations are carried out in an environmentally-sound manner. The System outlines the organizational structure, policies, practices, procedures and resources necessary to implement sound environmental management within NRCan.

During public consultations, it was suggested that NRCan enhance awareness of environmental considerations among employees so that, over time, sustainable development becomes a conscious part of the every-day activities of both management and staff.

A top priority is to provide employees with the tools and the training required to understand their roles and responsibilities in protecting the environment. Key to achieving this goal will be the release, in 1998, of an NRCan Environmental Protection Guide compatible with the internationally approved ISO 14000 requirements. The Guide will outline the responsibilities for both managers and employees with respect to protecting the environment.

As part of this effort, NRCan will raise awareness among employees of sound environmental practices and report on departmental performance.

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4.1 Using leading-edge environmental management tools and practices for NRCan operations.

NRCan will:
  1. Review and upgrade NRCan's Environmental Management System (EMS) to comply with international standards (i.e. ISO 14000 series)
  2. Update and improve NRCan environmental management policies and practices by:
    • distributing a Departmental Environmental Protection Guide on manager and employee best practices; and,
    • reviewing and updating the Departmental Environmental Policy, in 1998.
  3. Increase awareness among NRCan employees of best practices for environmental stewardship by:
    • creating a web-site to publicize the Department's environmental management system;
    • preparing an environmental progress report, in 1999; and,
    • measuring the changes in employee environmental awareness, by 2000.
  4. Improve NRCan's environmental assessment practices by:
    • reviewing and updating the Departmental Environmental Assessment Manual;
    • making available a manual for the Departmental Environmental Assessment Public Registry Database; and,
    • conducting four training sessions on environmental responsibility awareness; four environmental assessment evaluations; and four environmental, health and safety audits, each year.
  5. Complete an assessment of NRCan's partnerships with stakeholders, particularly the environmental and Aboriginal communities, to identify and promote best practices.

4.2 Waste Management and Reduction

Canadians spend more than $1.5 billion annually for collection and disposal of solid wastes. The federal government is committed to reducing its solid waste by 50 per cent from 1988 levels by the year 2000 (Figure 18).

Figure 18

NRCan's pollution prevention approach focuses on key areas including reducing, re-using, and recycling of hazardous and non-hazardous materials, composting, treatment and safe destruction of PCB wastes, and secure land filling of remaining waste.

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4.2 Reducing wastes from NRCan operations

NRCan will:
  1. Evaluate NRCan's participation in the Accelerated Reduction/Elimination of Toxics program, in 1998.
  2. Safely destroy all remaining Departmental PCB wastes, by 2000.
  3. Survey one laboratory facility per year for wastewater compliance.
  4. Manage NRCan's Ozone Depleting Substances to meet international obligations.
  5. Improve NRCan's in-house recycling program, including expanding organic waste composting.

4.3 Efficient Use of Energy and Water

NRCan has adopted the goal of becoming the most energy efficient department in the Government of Canada. Through its Federal Buildings Initiative (FBI) and Greening NRCan Operations Plan, the Department has discovered opportunities to minimize air emissions, save resources and reduce operating costs through better water management and energy efficiency improvements. NRCan will apply the FBI to all its facilities, using the energy savings to pay capital costs for energy efficiency improvements.

The federal government is one of the largest users of motor vehicles in Canada, consuming about 2 per cent of all energy used for transportation.

NRCan is actively taking steps through its Fleet Management Program to reduce the number of its vehicles, convert the remainder to alternative fuels where economically feasible, and promote more efficient use of vehicles through such actions as car pooling.

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4.3 Increasing the efficiency of energy and other resource use in NRCan operations.

NRCan will:
  1. Reduce the Departmental vehicle fleet size by 40 per cent from 1995 figures and ensure, where technically and operationally possible, that all new vehicles run on alternative transportation fuels, by 1998.
  2. Reduce Departmental energy consumption by 18 per cent over 1993-94 levels, by 1999.
  3. Reduce water consumption by 30 per cent over 1994-95 levels, by 2000.

4.4 Green Goods and Services

Procurement policies and practices can have a significant influence on waste generation. NRCan will be piloting "green" procurement training which will focus on environmental considerations when purchasing goods and services, and the role of NRCan staff involved in purchasing.

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4.4 Promoting the use of goods and services that are eco-efficient.

NRCan will:
  1. Provide staff with new tools and training to promote green procurement of goods and services, during 1998.
  2. Purchase green power generated from renewable and alternative sources of energy, by 1998.

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