Legal and Regulatory Framework
Updated: January 2021
Pest control products imported, sold or used are regulated throughout the country by the Pest Control Products Act and its implementing regulations. Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) is responsible for administering this legislation, registering pest control products, re evaluating registered products and setting maximum residue limits in food.
On the one hand, any pest control product used, sold or imported in Canada, must be registered. Whether or not a product should be granted registration, is based upon a rigorous scientific assessment of health and environment considerations as well on its value (including efficacy). On the other hand, it is prohibited to use a pest control product without conforming to its label contents. Any application inconsistent with the label directions or limitations, is an offence according to the law, and may entail a risk for human health, the environment and/or both.
Since 1992, the Federal, Provincial, Territorial Committee on Pest Management and Pesticides of which Québec is a member, guides governments on how to manage their programs, policies, and on how to address issues concerning pesticides, and through its working groups, actively seeks solutions to common problems. Progresses have been made to harmonize programs and policies of federal, provincial and territorial governments regarding pesticides.
In Québec, pesticides sales and use are regulated by the Pesticides Act and, in complementary manner, by the Environment Quality Act. Laws and regulations stemming from these are administered by Ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques.
In 1986, Québec launched its "Politique pour une utilisation rationnelle des pesticides," which completed the draft bill on pesticides. Assented in 1987 and modified in 1993, Québec’s Pesticides Act was a complement to the federal government legal framework (Table 1).
The Pesticides Act targets two major objectives:
The means selected to achieve these objectives focus mainly on promoting the analysis, assessment and control of the effects of the use of pesticides through specific activities intended to widen knowledge about these products (environmental monitoring, for example).
To contribute to the development of alternative solutions to the use of pesticides and promote these, the Ministère participates in the design and promotion of public information and outreach tools.
In addition, legislative and regulatory controls are among the means taken to ensure the competence of key users and to set practice guidelines. Under these controls, provisions are made to:
To clarify the mechanics of the Pesticides Act, the government enacted in 1997 the Regulation respecting permits and certificates for the sale and use of pesticides, replacing the Regulation respecting pesticides, the Regulation respecting the application of pesticides on farms and, the Regulation respecting the application of pesticides in forests in force since 1988 (Table 2). In 1997, the Regulation respecting permits and certificates for the sale and use of pesticides came into force and enacted into law the majority of the Act to amend the Pesticides Act sections. Amended in 2003 and 2018, the Regulation respecting permits and certificates for the sale and use of pesticides:
In force since 2003 and amended in 2018 and then in 2020, the Pesticides Management Code introduces regulations to control the storage, use and sale of pesticides in order to reduce pesticide exposure for people, pollinators and the environment. Its regulatory stipulations especially target holders of permits and certificates, pesticide sales outlets as well as commercial and private users, including farmers and forest managers. Certain provisions address ordinary citizens. Childcare centres, elementary and secondary schools shall also be as free as possible from pesticides. It also aims to regulate the use of the highest-risk pesticides in agricultural areas.
Actions restraining the use of pesticides related to the Environment Quality Act enactment began in the 1980s. The Pesticides Act complemented these actions in 1987.
In accordance with the Environment Quality Act and its related regulations, certain projects are subject to environmental impact assessment and review procedures. Certain users must also obtain a Ministerial authorization in compliance with this legislation. Standards ensure that drinking water is safe.
Under the Regulation respecting the environmental impact assessment and review of certain projects, any program or project for the application, using an aircraft, including a drone, of pesticides, for non-agricultural purposes over an area of 600 ha or more is subject to the procedure. This procedure does not apply to the application of a pesticide whose only active ingredient is Bacillus thuringiensis (subsp. Kurstaki) or Bacillus thuringiensis (subsp. israelensis). In the latter case, the program or project must be carried out by a local municipality and the area concerned must be 5,000 ha or less.
The Environment Quality Act requires that certain activities be carried out with an authorization from Ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques. The Regulation respecting the regulatory scheme applying to activities on the basis of their environmental impact (French) specifies the works involving pesticide application that requires a ministerial authorization.
Directive 017 explains what to do and which information and documents must be furnished to obtain a ministerial authorization for projects requiring the use of pesticides.
The Regulation respecting the quality of drinking water provides standards and controls regulating water quality for human consumption. Some drinking water distribution systems must be in compliance with standards applying to organic substances, including pesticides. In other words, water must not contain pesticides in a concentration greater than those indicated in this regulation.
Pesticide wastes, that is wastes consisting in whole or in part of pesticides or contaminated by such products, are regulated by the Environment Quality Act and are not subject to the Pesticides Act.
Since the early 1990s, numerous municipalities in Québec have enacted regulations to control pesticides (PDF, 26 KB - French), to better protect citizens regarding their use. Municipalities exercise this right in accordance with the Municipal Code of Québec and the Cities and Towns Act. Moreover, in the case of Spraytech v Hudson in June 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada officially granted the town of Hudson the power to regulate municipalities to ensure the welfare of its citizens and acknowledged that the federal, provincial and municipal jurisdictions complement each other regarding pesticides control.
The Pesticides Act defines the primacy of the Pesticides Management Code and the Regulation respecting permits and certificates for the sale and use of pesticides regarding municipal by-laws. The Pesticides Act provides that any provision of the provincial legislation prevails over any inconsistent provision of any by-law passed by a municipality or a metropolitan community. In fact the municipalities must make sure that such provisions are not inconsistent with the regulations related to the Pesticides Act. Lastly, municipal by-laws need not be authorized by the Ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques before they are passed.