About Environment Canada

At Environment Canada (EC), our business is protecting the environment, conserving the country's natural heritage, and providing weather and meteorological information to keep Canadians informed and safe.

Environment Canada is building on its accomplishments with the environment through credible science, effective regulations and legislation, successful partnerships, and high-quality service delivery to Canadians.

We support sound environmental decisions. We work to repair the damage of the past, to collect and pass on knowledge, and to develop, implement and enforce policies to prevent future issues. We also work to ensure that Canadians have a safe, clean and sustainable environment today, tomorrow and well into the future.

Environment Canada is a diverse organization where our programs, services, and people lead the way in implementing the Government of Canada’s environmental agenda. We collaborate with our partners at home and abroad, to realize concrete progress on initiatives that will protect the health of our people and our planet.

Our Mandate

Environment Canada's mandate is to

  • preserve and enhance the quality of the natural environment, including water, air, soil, flora and fauna;
  • conserve Canada's renewable resources;
  • conserve and protect Canada's water resources;
  • forecast daily weather conditions and warnings, and provide detailed meteorological information to all of Canada;
  • enforce rules relating to boundary waters; and
  • coordinate environmental policies and programs for the federal government.

Our People

Our workforce is made up of knowledgeable and dedicated employees from diverse backgrounds that are proud of the contribution they make to the environment. We have 6800 employees from a broad range of fields including biology, chemistry, meteorology, climatology, engineering, commerce, communications, engineering, law enforcement, environmental sciences, hydrology, informatics, law, library science, policy, and more.

Our employees work in over 100 communities across the country, from Iqaluit to Toronto and Vancouver to St. John's. Over 65 per cent of our workforce is located outside of Ottawa.

Our diverse expertise strengthens our ability to deal with increasingly complex and changing environmental issues. From the Canadian Ice Service to the Canadian Hurricane Centre, from laboratories and weather stations to national wildlife areas and field offices–our people deliver quality services.

Find out more about what we do:


Facts and Figures

Environment Canada plays an important role every day and has established a legacy of action on behalf of the environment since it was first created in 1971.

Every year, Environment Canada

  • issues (on average) 1.5 million public forecasts, 15 000 severe weather warnings, 500 000 aviation forecasts, and 200 000 marine, ice and sea-state forecasts;
  • receives over 55 million calls to our weather information telephone line
  • averages over half a billion individual visits to our comprehensive weather website weatheroffice.gc.ca;
  • manages the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI), the first health protection tool of its kind in the world, which lets Canadians determine how much time they should spend outside or how they should adjust their activities under higher air pollution levels;
  • coordinates, manages and provides advice for over 1000 significant environmental incidents, including conducting environmental impact assessments;
  • assesses the risks of nearly 1000 chemical substances that may be found in our air, water and industrial and consumer products;
  • processes 7000 notices for proposed international shipments of hazardous waste permits and more than 43 000 shipment manifests involving hazardous waste;
  • implements and supports hundreds of environmental technology advancement projects in Canada and abroad;
  • publishes about 600 peer-reviewed scientific publications;
  • provides expert advice and coordination to 18 federal departments and agencies for managing the Federal Contaminated Sites Action Plan; and
  • tracks releases, disposals and transfers for recycling of over 300 substances from approximately 8000 facilities in Canada.

Our Science

Environment Canada is a science-based department, and we provide the science and technology information needed so that Canadians can make informed decisions about the environment. In addition, Environment Canada’s science and technology work helps us to protect and conserve our air, water, wildlife and spaces. 

The majority of our budget and more than half of our workforce is dedicated to science and technology. Science, the foundation for our policy choices and the basis of our reputation with stakeholders and the international community, is key to our success. Environment Canada is an environmental science research leader, and conducts and publishes 80 per cent of our research in collaboration with external researchers. 

We use our research to track and manage wildlife populations, to improve understanding of ecosystems and support their recovery, to assess environmental risk, to issue weather and climate forecasts and warnings, and to support policy and legislative action.

To maintain our scientific capacity and offer our services, we operate 15 research institutes and labs, seven storm prediction centres, and 32 water survey offices. We also maintain extensive air, climate, and water monitoring networks made up of 800 staffed and automatic weather stations, 850 climate observing stations with twice daily observations by volunteers, and approximately 2900 hydrometric water observing stations across Canada. Our infrastructure includes radar and one of Canada's largest supercomputers.

To learn more about the science we do, and about our labs and facilities, our programs, and how we manage our science, visit our Science & Technology homepage.


Our Research

Environment Canada carries out research activities in a variety of fields including the following:

Climate Change Research

Our climate change research focuses on climate change and variability in Canada, the causes and the impacts.  Our approach includes: field and laboratory research aimed at understanding climate processes; monitoring atmospheric greenhouse gases to track and understand changes; and developing and applying of climate models to make projections of future change. Our scientific results provide the basis for adaptation and mitigation actions, for climate policy and development, and for climate-related services and products for Canadians.

Meteorological and Weather Research

Environment Canada maintains a meteorological research and development capacity that provides the department with the research necessary to improve weather and environmental prediction. The meteorological research and development program is the scientific foundation on which the weather and environmental prediction programs of Environment Canada are built. This research leads to Canadians receiving better advanced warning of severe weather events, and helps everyone protect themselves, their families and their property from harm.

Air Quality Research

Our science and research helps us to protect Canada's air quality. We study and measure air pollutants that can alter the atmosphere and affect human health, including acid rain, persistent organic pollutants, ground-level ozone, particulate matter, mercury, and substances that deplete the ozone layer. Our research is based on an integrated and multidisciplinary approach, which includes the study of the science of air issues, from the source of pollutants, and their transportation and interactions in the atmosphere, to the impacts on health and the environment.

Our air quality science and research supports the development of regulations, guidelines and policies as well as addressing Canada's international obligations. Our work also helps to keep Canadians informed about changes in air quality and the potential impacts on their health, by providing the science needed for the Environment Canada's daily forecasts of air quality and UV.

Water

Water research includes research into water quantity and water quality. EC's thousands of water observing stations across Canada monitor water bodies for changes in water levels and for pollutants, such as toxic substances generated by industrial, agricultural and domestic uses.

This research is used to set Canada-wide standards for substances including mercury, petroleum hydrocarbons, dioxins and furans.

Nature

Because Canada has such a significant share of the earth's natural ecosystems—25 per cent of wetland ecosystems, 15 per cent of forests and 16 per cent of Arctic ecosystems—Environment Canada plays an important role as environmental steward.

Our nature research, which supports activities to preserve biodiversity and natural areas in Canada, is used to

  • develop recovery plans for species;
  • identify and conserve or restore ecologically important areas;
  • monitor migratory bird populations; and
  • track ecosystem health.

Our Enforcement Activities

Environment Canada’s Enforcement Branch is responsible for Canada's environmental and wildlife legislation. The Branch also participates in the development and administration of several other acts, as well as advises various federal agencies on other pieces of legislation.

Our enforcement activities relate to areas including the manufacture and use of toxic substances, import and export of hazardous wastes and materials, migratory birds, endangered species, and the protection of domestic water and water shared internationally. Our enforcement officers work with industries, businesses, farmers, provinces, municipalities, customs officials, hunters, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They also testify in court, work undercover on smuggling operations, and conduct field inspections, investigations and intelligence activities.


Our Environmental Promotion Activities

To protect, conserve and enhance the environment, we help shape how Canadians think about the environment. We are doing this by sharing knowledge, developing and supporting partnerships, and establishing economic incentives to support sound environmental decisions.

Compiling our research into information tools such as the Canadian Bird Trends database, Hinterland's Who's Who, the National Pollutant Release Inventory, emission forecasts and trends, and engineering climatology products and services helps us increase awareness, show trends, and build capacity for environmental best practices.


Our Key Partners

We cannot tackle environmental issues alone. Partnerships are a fundamental way of doing business at Environment Canada.

Our key partners include:


Citizens

Canadians are becoming increasingly involved in assessing the state of their environment and bringing about change. Programs such as Plant Watch and Frog Watch, launched by the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Network with the support of local communities, help assess the state of Canada's environment.


Non-governmental Groups

Non-governmental organizations across the country–-at the community, regional and national level–-are actively carrying out projects related to clean air, nature, clean water, and climate change. These organizations are dedicated to making a positive impact on the environment, and play an important role in many of EC's public engagement activities. For example, with EC’s support, community groups across Canada have taken action, improving their local environment with positive and sustainable results.


Research Facilities

EC has partnerships with other research facilities; federal, provincial and territorial agencies; and universities to work on specific projects. These partnerships allow researchers to share expertise, pool resources and equipment, and avoid duplicating efforts.


Other Federal Departments

Environment Canada works with the other federal departments that deal with natural resources. The five natural resource departments—Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Health Canada, Natural Resources Canada, and Environment Canada—collaborate on research, share success stories, and disseminate information. This helps Canadians understand sustainable development issues and equips them to make and support informed decisions about sustainable development and the environment.


Provincial and Territorial Governments

The Government of Canada shares jurisdiction over environmental matters with the provinces and territories. EC works with provincial and territorial governments to develop policies and programs, undertake research, share success stories, and provide information on environmental issues of national and regional importance.  

These relationships are fostered through bilateral agreements as well as through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment and other multilateral fora on specific issues such as domestic and international climate change, wildlife, species at risk and ecological areas, water, and environmental protection.


Aboriginal Peoples

EC works with the governments, communities, and organizations of the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada-–First Nations, Métis and Inuit-–to advance the Department’s programs and priorities, and to support Aboriginal environmental stewardship and objectives. This includes partnerships for the implementation of environmental legislation and programs, such as the Species at Risk Act.


Private Sector Organizations

Our partnerships with the private sector include work with industries such as the textile, dry-cleaning, pulp and paper, and wood preservatives industries to ensure compliance with environmental regulations and facilitate the adoption of pollution prevention measures.


International Organizations

Environment Canada is involved in at least seven United Nations organizations, including the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Meteorological Organization, and the Commission on Sustainable Development.

EC also participates in other international organizations such as the Arctic Council, the G-8, and the Inter-American Institute for Global Change, and has signed several bilateral agreements with individual countries.


The Beginning

Environment Canada was created on June 11, 1971, from elements of the Government of Canada such as the Meteorological Service of Canada (established in 1871) and the Canadian Wildlife Service (established in 1947).

The Department began operation with five services:

  • Atmospheric Environment Service
  • Environmental Protection Service
  • Fisheries Service
  • Land, Forest and Wildlife Service
  • Water Management Service

The architects of the early Department of Environment envisioned an organization that would act as ecosystem manager, incorporate ecological concerns into decision making, and be built on concepts now known as ecosystem-based management.

The 1970s saw improvements to the Atmospheric Environment Service's Weather Service, with bilingual forecasts initiated in Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces, and with wind chill forecasts in Saskatchewan. In addition to this, the Weatheradio system was established, and the Canadian Climate Centre was created.

In 1979, organizational changes led to the Fisheries Service leaving the Department of Environment to form the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

In the 1980s, Canada hosted the first International Conference on Acid Rain, and the Department of Environment launched the first of what would be a series of ecosystem initiatives with the Great Lakes Action Plan. The Action Plan opened the doors to a new way of doing business for the department. Using an integrated ecosystem approach incorporating water, air, wildlife, habitat, and pollution in the Great Lakes Basin, the department began to act as a catalyst, seeking collaboration among all interested parties. The launch of the Action Plan was the beginning of the Great Lakes clean-up and of our ecosystem approach, which is still the foundation of our work today.

Continuing to Evolve

As a department, we continue to evolve in response to the needs of our clients and partners. From our initial mandate in 1970 to protect the biosphere, we moved to an integrated ecosystem approach in the 1980s and included the concept of sustainable development in Canada's Green Plan in the 1990s.

Today, Environment Canada continues to balance the need to protect the environment while growing the economy with regulatory frameworks to address air emissions, greenhouse gases, wastewater, and chemicals. Integrating environmental considerations into decision-making processes for projects as varied as mining and construction to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games is a natural demonstration of commitment to a foundation of sustainable development.