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The development of ocean incineration law in Canada Hughes, Elaine Lois

Abstract

The present study is designed to examine the structure and development of international and Canadian laws which attempt to regulate the ocean disposal of toxic waste by at-sea incineration. It begins by describing some of the hazardous wastes which are creating dangerous environmental problems in Canada and other nations, by introducing the reader to the types of toxic materials subject to incineration and dumping at sea, and to the nature of the hazards these materials create. With this background in mind, the historical development of ocean dumping laws is then described, beginning with the major international treaties that presently regulate dumping activities. The Canadian laws, which emerged in order to implement the international treaty obligations, are then examined, together with an outline of how these laws are actually administered in the Canadian constitutional and political context. Emerging political strategies to improve the management and disposal of toxic waste are examined, including the increased use of incineration technology. The actual use and legal regulation of ocean incineration is then described, in an attempt to determine whether this type of ocean disposal is a useful and controllable waste management option. Current Canadian policy and legal proposals on ocean incineration are examined in light of ongoing international controversy over the advisability of its use as a waste management strategy. The study examines several jurisdictional, economic, scientific, and political problems which, in the Canadian context, cast doubt upon the ability of government to obtain either public acceptance of ocean incineration, or adequate legal control over at-sea incineration operations. In particular, the relevant legal, political and administrative decision-making processes are reviewed, to identify areas in which improvements are needed. It is concluded that government should move away from incremental law and policy formation, and start to experiment with new forms of decision-making processes, in order to deal with such complex and difficult issues. It is recommended that the government seek to respond in new and innovative ways to these problems. Resolving the question of the desirability of ocean incineration is seen as a possible "pilot project" to test the ability of Canadian legal and political institutions to meet the future challenges posed by such environmental issues. The policies and legislation discussed in the study are reported as of June 30, 1988.

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