The federal government has recognized for a number of years that most First Nations do not benefit from the same level of environmental protection as other communities in Canada. There are two components:

  1. Regulatory gap: there are limited environmental laws and regulations that apply to reserve lands compared to a typical provincial regime; and
  2. Capacity gap: there is a lack of dedicated resources for First Nations to ensure training, implementation, monitoring and enforcement, and governance for environmental protection.

Environmental protection and management requires a comprehensive approach that is not possible with existing federal environmental laws. Some of the areas where this deficiency has been noted include management of solid waste including hazardous wastes; source water protections; and addressing environmental emergencies.

There are consequences resulting from this environmental protection gap including:

  • Loss of access to lands and waters
  • Potential impacts on human and ecosystem health
  • Inability to pursue polluters for damages or adequate address harm
  • Increased costs to the First Nation
  • Lost economic opportunities due to regulatory uncertainty

The federal government, specifically ISC and ECCC, has initiated a multiphase approach to co-develop options with First Nation regional organizations to address the environmental protection gap on First Nation reserve lands. Currently, they are in Phase 3 of a six-phase process. As part of this process, both Chiefs of Ontario and the Anishinabek Nation have been separately funded to work with Ontario First Nations to identify priorities, perspectives and solutions. The end goal is the development of a framework to address the environmental protection regulatory and capacity gap, including resourcing.


As part of this project, the Chiefs of Ontario is administering this survey to Ontario First Nations as the first step in information gathering. Results of the survey will be compiled and shared with the Chiefs Committee on the Environment (CCOE), the Chiefs of Ontario Leadership Council, First Nations leadership, all participants in the survey, and our federal government partners on the project. The results will also be shared with the national working group, which includes First Nations PTO representatives from across Canada.

Download the full survey here: 21-11-01 COO Environmental Regulation Gap Survey Oct 2021


  1. This issue has been noted in numerous reports since the 1980s including: Article 29 of UNDRIP (2007), AFN Resolution No. 14 (2017) and No. 65 (2018), and the House of Commons Standing Committee Report on the review of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) in 2017.
  2. There have been some measures taken to address the Environmental Protection Regulatory Gap including the First Nations Land Management Act (FNLMA), self-government agreements, and the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act; however, the gap remains.
  3. Chiefs of Ontario is administering the attached survey as part of this project. We are using the same survey as that developed by the Anishinabek Nation to maintain consistency throughout our region. The Anishinabek Nation administered their survey last fiscal year and the results have been compiled and shared with their member First Nations and federal partners already.
  4. As part of the survey protocol, individual responses will not be shared without prior written consent. The results of the surveys will be compiled and only aggregate information will be shared publicly. Chiefs of Ontario will maintain all surveys and handle data according to the First Nations OCAP (Ownership, Control, Access and Possession) principles (For more information: This includes storing survey results on the COO internal server, along with access to and withdrawal of a First Nation’s survey results on request.


Please complete the attached Environmental Regulation Gap Survey and return to:

Stephanie Allen
Environment Program Manager
Chiefs of Ontario
Fax: (416) 597-8365