Managing the Environmental Petitions Process
Environmental Petitions and How They Work
Environmental petitions provide Canadians with a formal procedure for bringing concerns about environmental and sustainable development issues to the attention of the federal government. The petitions process also provides Canadians with a means of obtaining a response to their concerns. For example, petitions can be used to ask federal ministers and departments or agencies to explain federal policy, investigate environmental problems, or review legislation and regulations.
On behalf of the Auditor General, the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development
- receives petitions and forwards them to appropriate ministers;
- ensures responses are received from the petitioned federal ministers;
- reports annually to Parliament on the number of petitions received, their subject matter, and their status; and
- conducts audits of environmental and sustainable development matters, some of which may examine issues raised in petitions or department commitments and in statements made in petition responses.
Submitting a Petition
A petition must meet the following conditions:
- It must be submitted and signed by a resident of Canada—either an individual or a representative of an organization, association, or group.
- It must be about an environmental matter in the context of sustainable development.
- The issue must fall under the responsibility of at least one of the federal departments and agencies that are subject to the environmental petitions process.
Only one petitioner needs to sign a petition for it to be submitted. Multiple signatures are not required.
The subject matter of petitions varies greatly and may cover a variety of issues, such as environmental assessments, pesticides, drinking water, aboriginal affairs, endangered species, contaminated sites, science and technology, air pollution, or fish habitats.
The Office of the Auditor General’s website has
- a petitions guide to assist petitioners in writing and submitting their petitions,
- a petitions catalogue containing the full text of all of petitions and their corresponding departmental responses, and
- a list of departments and agencies that are subject to the petitions process.
Petitions are posted on the Office’s website only after they have been tabled in Parliament.
Petitions may be submitted to the Auditor General of Canada by mail, email, or fax, using the contact information at the end of this fact sheet. All information submitted with the petition is subject to the Access to Information Act.
Processing a Petition
- The Commissioner’s petitions team reviews the petition to determine if it meets the basic conditions set out in the Auditor General Act.
- Within 15 calender days of receiving the petition, the petitions team must forward it to the federal departments and agencies that are responsible for the issues raised in the petition. The petitions team may provide petitioners with assistance in identifying responsible departments.
- Within 15 calendar days of receiving the petition, the responsible minister(s) must send a letter of acknowledgement to the petitioner, and must also send a copy of the letter to the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.
- Within 120 calendar days of receiving the petition, the minister must consider the petition, send a response to the petitioner, and send a copy of the response to the Commissioner.
- The Commissioner’s team reviews the minister’s response to ensure that all requests and questions were addressed, and contacts the petitioner and the department or agency to follow up on any requests or questions that were not addressed in the minister’s response.
The Commissioner reports annually to Parliament on the quantity, nature, and status of petitions received, as well as on departments’ compliance with statutory timelines.
For information or questions about petitions, contact the Environmental Petitions Team at this address:
Office of the Auditor General of Canada
240 Sparks Street
Telephone: 613-952-0213, extension 2923
Toll Free: 1-888-761-5953, extension 2923