Environmental Inspections and Investigations

Environmental protection is recognized as an important public policy in Canada. Federal and provincial governments have implemented comprehensive environmental laws that require all Canadians to actively protect the environment. Companies or individuals that fail to meet the requirements of these laws may be charged with an offence leading to a fine or imprisonment. To ensure compliance, environmental statutes include broad powers of enforcement. These powers allow enforcement officers (inspectors/investigators) to carry out inspections to verify compliance with the law and investigations to gather evidence of a potential violation of the law. Any business, organization or individual that may be the subject of an inspection or investigation should be prepared and should clearly understand the rights and responsibilities of all involved.

Who should attend

This course will provide a solid introduction for individuals in public and private enterprise, including engineers, environmental managers, plant managers, environmental scientists and lawyers who are responsible for environmental affairs or the coordination of on-site inspections and investigations. The course will provide an excellent overview for any employee, such as security personnel, equipment operators, and others who may be required to participate in an environmental inspection or investigation.


The purpose of this introductory course is to provide an overview of the inspection and investigation processes and to assist participants in understanding the rights and responsibilities of the inspectors/investigators and those being inspected/investigated. At the end of the two-day course, participants will have a general understanding of the relevant environmental laws and how enforcement provisions and protocols apply to them or their organization.

Special feature

Through interactive, hands-on activities participants will design a practical checklist of items to be considered before, during and following an inspection or investigation and a corporate policy on inspections and investigations. Participants will have an opportunity to ask questions of enforcement officers, prosecutors and defence lawyers.

Benefits to participants

You will learn:

  • how to read environmental legislation
  • how environmental laws define offences, inspections, and investigations
  • how inspections and investigations are carried out
  • the key differences between inspections and investigations
  • how to prepare for an investigation interview
  • when to contact legal counsel during an inspection or investigation
  • how to facilitate a smooth inspection or investigation


Day 1 - registration/check-in will start at 8:00 a.m. with sessions to begin at 8:30 a.m. and adjourn at 4:00 p.m. Day 2 will commence at 8:30 a.m. and adjourn at 4:00 p.m. There will be 15 minute mid-morning and afternoon breaks. A light lunch is included.

Outline - Lead Instructor: Lisa Mitchell, LL.B, M.E.S.

Day 1

8:30 Registration
9:00 The Foundation for Inspections and Investigations
Regulating Pollution

- Nova Scotia Environmental Act
- Canadian Environmental Protection Act
- Fisheries Act
10:30 Establishing the Offence
- What is an environmental offence?
11:00 Break
11:15 Enforcement and Compliance
11:30 Inspections
Why inspect?
Group Exercise: Inspection Powers
12:30 Lunch
1:00 The Powers and Responsibilities of the Inspector
Rights of access
Inspection orders
Who is the inspector?
2:00 Break
2:30 Investigations
Why investigate?
Group Exercise: Investigation Powers
3:15 Q & A/Quiz
4:00 Adjournment


Day 2

8:30 Searches
Powers to search and seize
Search warrants
Searching without a warrant
Rights of the Party Under Investigation
10:15 Break
10:30 Interviews and Cooperation
Verbal and written statements
Voluntary statements
Self incrimination
Employee interviews
Cooperation and obstruction
12:30 Lunch
1:00 Panel on Inspections and Investigations
Representation from enforcement officers, defence lawyer and prosecutor
3:00 Break
3:15 Developing a Checklist and Corporate Policy on Inspections
Small Group Session
4:00 Adjournment


Lisa J. Mitchell, M.E.S., LL.B, is the principal of LJM Environmental Law and staff lawyer for the East Coast Environmental Law Association. She has a Masters of Environmental Studies from the School for Resource and Environmental Studies and more than fifteen years of experience working in the areas of environmental law, policy and environmental management. Lisa has a broad-ranging practice base that includes government, non-government organizations, private-sector companies, community groups and individual clients.  She has provided legal advice on issues related to contaminated sites, environmental impact assessment, water regulation, aquaculture, mining, environmental liability and coastal management. Lisa has provided advice and training on environmental legislation and policy in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Ontario.