Executive Summary


When Canada, Mexico, and the United States signed NAFTA into law in 1994, there was widespread concern amongst citizen and NGO groups that the respective environmental laws of the signatory Parties would suffer from a lack of enforcement as each country sought to gain a competitive trade advantage. There was an expectation that trade liberalisation would cause countries sacrifice their environmental standards in order to attract industry. This, many feared, would lead to the creation of pollution havens: the so-called ‘race to the bottom effect.’

In response to that concern, an environmental side agreement, the North American Agreement for Environmental Cooperation was negotiated. Its mandate is the promotion of effective enforcement by the Parties of their respective environmental legislation, to address regional environmental concerns, and to prevent potential trade and environment conflicts (bringing the Facts to light, CEC). The NAAEC is intended to complement the environmental provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The Commission on Environmental Cooperation is an international organization created by Mexico, the United States and Canada under the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation. It was established to address environmental concerns at a regional level, to help prevent potential conflicts over trade and the environment, and to function as:
'an environmental watch-dog mandated to oversee… the enforcement of environmental laws by the Parties. The vehicle through which it performs this role is the citizen Submission Process.’
- Christopher Tollefson.

The Citizen Submission Process enables anyone who lives in any of the three countries of North America to make a written assertion that a Party is failing to enforce an environmental law on its books. This process is administered by our client, the Submission on Enforcement Matters unit of the CEC.

Factual Record
The product of this process, if it is not terminated earlier, is a Factual Record that may be produced and made publicly available.
A factual record is a comprehensive document that outlines the history of the issue, the obligations of the party concerned (that is, the environmental law that is not being enforced), and the actions of the party pertaining to those obligations. These factual records are envisioned to contribute to environmental law enforcement in the following way:
When A Factual Record is made publicly available, it leads increased public awareness of the issue. This in turn leads the public to place increased pressure on the government to enforce the environmental laws in question. Finally, the government responds to this pressure by enforcing the environmental law.

© 2002 McGill School of Environment
McGill University
3534 University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 2A7