As part of a new omnibus budget implementation bill, the federal government is attempting to disband The Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission (HMIRC), an independent agency accountable to Parliament through the Minister of Health.
Bill C-45 was introduced to Parliament last week, but the 400-plus page bill has yet to be passed. It would amend the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act to transfer the powers and functions of the HMIRC to the resource-strapped Minister of Health and repeal provisions of that Act that are related to the Commission.
On its website, HMIRC says that it works “with our stakeholders—industry, labour and governments—to help safeguard both workers and trade secrets in Canada's chemical industry. Our tools include sound scientific expertise, good communication and dedication to the rights of everyone involved.”
“Without proper education on safe handling, proper storage, transportation and disposal of hazardous materials, how will chemical industry workers protect the health of Canadians and themselves?” asked Adrienne Silnicki, health campaigner for the Council of Canadians, in an October 19, 2012 statement to media.
Part of the mandate of the HMIRC is to “to formally register claims for trade-secret exemptions and issue registry numbers.”
A number of Canadian companies are currently seeking exemptions from the Hazardous Materials Information Review Act. They've filed claims for exemptions "from the disclosure of supplier confidential business information in respect of a controlled product” which would normally be required under the Hazardous Products Act.
“This bill will also kill independent review of requests to keep fracking chemicals and other hazardous materials secret,” Silnicki added.
The new omnibus bill — the second one this year — has renewed debate over perceptions that the federal government has been trying to steamroll new legislation past the Canadian public.
“The federal government is giving these industries more than they have ever asked for, all at the expense of average Canadians who want to ensure that we protect our natural legacy for our kids,” said Devon Page, executive director of Ecojustice, in a statement to media October 18, 2012.
For more info about the HMIRC's mandate and vision, please click here.