Reporting relationship of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

Petition: 443

Issue(s): Environmental assessment; Governance; International cooperation; Natural resources; Science and technology

Petitioner(s): Canadian organizations

Petitioner Location(s): Ottawa, Ontario; Toronto, Ontario

Date Received: 12 May 2020

Status: Completed—Response(s) to petition received

Summary: The petition expresses concerns that the governance structure of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission may place the Minister of Natural Resources in an actual or perceived conflict of interest. Currently, under the Nuclear Energy Act, the Government of Canada has the federal nuclear regulatory body, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, report to Parliament through the Minister of Natural Resources, the same minister charged with producing and promoting nuclear energy under the Nuclear Energy Act. The petition suggests that the commission’s reporting relationship is inconsistent with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s general safety requirements and with its guidance on regulatory independence from undue influences and from the organizations the commission regulates.

The petition states that the Minister of Natural Resources is not neutral with respect to promoting nuclear technologies and that the commission’s current reporting relationship to the minister may have adverse effects on several aspects of sustainable development. The petition maintains that this relationship may lead to priority being placed on expanding the nuclear industry rather than on protecting the health of Canadians and the needs of future generations, protecting ecosystems, and preventing pollution. The petition expresses concern that the minister’s role of encouraging nuclear energy under the Nuclear Energy Act could create pressure on the commission to promote new nuclear technologies, thereby compromising its independence as a regulatory body.

To address actual or perceived conflict-of-interest issues, the petition suggests that the Minister of Environment and Climate Change be designated as the responsible minister for the purpose of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act. The petition states that this designation would lead to greater weight being given to limiting the risks that nuclear energy poses to the health and safety of Canadians and their environment. Furthermore, the petition says that the commission would thereby report to an organization that has relevant technical expertise but is neutral in respect of the development of nuclear energy.

Federal Departments Responsible for Reply: Environment and Climate Change Canada; Finance Canada; Global Affairs Canada; Justice Canada; Natural Resources Canada; Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat