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revised October 01, 2013

Pesticide Regulation

What is the federal government’s role?

Pesticides are regulated in Canada through Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA).

The PMRA’s goal is to protect our health and the environment while at the same time supporting our agriculture, forestry, and manufacturing sectors.

The PMRA is responsible for providing us with ways to manage pests, while minimizing risks to our health and the environment.

Pest control products that are used, sold or imported into Canada are regulated by PMRA. These products include chemicals, devices, and even organisms. The federal legislation for regulating pesticides in Canada is the Pest Control Products Act.

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What is the provincial government’s role?

Pesticide use is also regulated through provincial and territorial legislation.

In Ontario, the Pesticides Act and its regulations cover the shipment, sale, application, storage, and disposal of pesticides. The Act also covers the requirements, training, certification, and licensing that pesticide sellers and applicators must meet. Provincial laws deal with the risks pesticides pose by controlling who may apply them.

Cosmetic Pesticides Ban Act

On April 22, 2009 the Cosmetic Pesticides Ban Act, 2008 comes into effect and supersedes existing municipal cosmetic pesticides by-laws. The Act bans the non-essential use of pesticides for cosmetic purposes on lawns, vegetable and ornamental gardens, patios, driveways, cemeteries, and in parks and school yards. More than 250 pesticide products are banned for sale and over 80 pesticide ingredients are banned for cosmetic uses. There are exceptions for use for agriculture, forestry, health or safety, and golf courses, with conditions.

Visit the following website for more information on What You Need to Know about the Pesticides Ban or call the Ministry of the Environment’s Public Information Centre at 1-800-565-4923 or 416-325-4000.

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What is the municipal government’s role?

High populations in our cities and towns often mean that how you use and maintain your property will affect those who live around you.

Municipalities may impose by-laws and land use restrictions to reduce conflict between neighbors. In its consideration of a Quebec community's pesticide by-law, the Supreme Court of Canada (Spraytech v. Hudson, June 2001) observed that “Law-making [is] often best achieved at a level of government that is … closest to the citizens affected and thus most responsive to their needs, to local distinctiveness and to population diversity.”

In Canada, provincial governments use legislation to control how much power a municipality has. Ontario’s Municipal Act lets municipalities pass by-laws that regulate the health, safety, morality, and welfare of the people who live there.

This power under the Ontario Municipal Act (both the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ Acts) is important because, in June 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada found a legitimate municipal power to control the use of pesticides in a similar clause in Quebec law.

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How did the Canadian Supreme Court define a municipality’s power to regulate pesticides?

In 1991, the Town of Hudson, located west of Montreal, passed a by-law that restricted the use of pesticides in the town to specific locations and applications.

In November 1992, two landscaping companies, Chemlawn and Spraytech, were charged for violating this by-law. The companies pleaded not guilty, and when they lost at trial level, appealed the decision. The companies also lost on appeal, so they then took their case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Chemlawn and Spraytech argued that it was outside the jurisdiction of the municipality to regulate pesticides. They also argued that the municipal law conflicted with provincial and federal law and was invalid. The Court found that there was no conflict between the by-law and other levels of regulation.

In its decision, the Supreme Court recognized that local governments can respond to local needs faster than other levels of government. The Court noted that there is a ‘general enabling clause’ in the Quebec City and Towns Act that gives each municipality the ability to make by-laws to “secure peace, order, good government, health and general welfare in the territory of the municipality.” The Court found that the by-law controlling the non-essential use of pesticides fell within the ‘health’ component of this general-enabling clause.

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Revised: October 01, 2013

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