Is Canada Going Cruelty-Free?

Canada's Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act

I would wager that most of the makeup in your cosmetics bag right now has been tested on animals. Up until one year ago, that would also have been true for my makeup bag. (See my first cruelty-free declutter here!) We may not like to think about it, but that doesn’t change the fact that your cosmetics ARE being tested on animals. And on top of that, many of your cosmetics are being tested on animals right here in Canada. While cosmetic animal testing is not mandatory in Canada, it is currently legal. But that will change if the Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act comes into force in Canada.


Short Overview of Bill S-214

In December 2015, Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen introduced “Bill S-214: An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act” (also known as the Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act). One year later, the Bill passed the Second Reading in the Senate and was referred to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. Earlier this month, the Committee unanimously voted in favour of Bill S-214 and presented its report to the Senate.


Aim of Bill S-214

Bill S-214 would amend the Food and Drugs Act to prohibit:

  1. cosmetic animal testing in Canada
  2. the sale of cosmetics developed or manufactured using cosmetic animal testing
  3. the use of evidence derived from animal testing to establish the safety of a cosmetic product


What does all this really mean?*

  1. Does this mean that all cosmetics within Canada will be cruelty-free?

NO! While Bill S-214 is an important step in the right direction, this does not mean that all cosmetics sold within Canada will be cruelty-free. Here are a few examples of situations where a product could have been tested on animals and still be sold in Canada after this Act comes into force:

  • The product was tested on animals before the Act comes into force (see #2)
  • The product was tested on animals outside Canada after the coming into force of the Act but the manufacturer is not relying on the evidence derived from the animal testing to establish the product’s safety (see #3)
  • The cosmetic product falls within an exception (see #4)                                                                             


  1. Will the prohibition against the sale of animal tested cosmetics apply to all cosmetics in Canada?

No. The prohibition against the sale of cosmetics developed or manufactured using cosmetic animal testing will only apply to cosmetics developed or manufactured after the Act comes into force (Bill S-214, Section 16(d)). In other words, if a product currently being sold within Canada was previously tested on animals, it will still be allowed to remain on the Canadian market after the Act comes into force.


  1. Will this Act be applicable to imported products?

Yes. While Canada cannot prohibit animal testing from being conducted abroad, it can regulate which products are imported into Canada. Canada’s Cosmetic Regulations contain numerous provisions aimed at ensuring that products sold within Canada are safe for our health. Accordingly, manufacturers can be required to submit evidence to establish the safety of their cosmetic product (Cosmetic Regulations, C.R.C., c. 869, Section 29). Bill S-214 provides that evidence derived from animal testing will not be accepted after the coming into force of the Act (Bill S-214, Section 18.1). This prohibition will be applicable to all manufacturers, even if the animal testing is occurring outside Canada. Nevertheless, this does not mean that all imported products will be cruelty-free! (See #1)


  1. Are there any exceptions where animal testing could still be conducted within Canada after the Act comes into force?

Yes. Firstly, Bill S-214 only applies to cosmetic animal testing. Cosmetics are substances “for use in cleansing, improving or altering the complexion, skin, hair or teeth, and includes deodorants and perfumes” (Food and Drugs Act, Section 2). Consequently, anything that falls outside of this definition would be not be subject to the prohibition against animal testing.

Secondly, animal testing could be conducted in Canada if it is authorized by the Minister of Health. However, the circumstances that would give rise to this exception are delineated in Bill S-214 and are very narrow (Bill S-214, Section 18.2).


What’s next for Bill S-214?

The Senate will debate and vote on Bill S-214. If the Bill passes this stage, it will be sent to the House of Commons where it must undergo the same kind of process before receiving the Royal Assent and becoming law. Hence, while it is exciting to see Bill S-214 moving forward, there is still much work to be done before it can become law.

You can keep up with developments related to this Bill here. And of course, feel free to send me any questions or comments you may have. I’d love to chat more about this!


*The information presented above is based on an analysis of Bill S-214 as it is currently written. If amendments are made to the Bill, the answers provided here may change as well.

**Note: While I do hold a Juris Doctor law degree and I am confident that the information I have provided herein is reliable, I am in no way claiming to be an expert on this matter. This post is for your personal information only. It is not permitted to copy or reproduce any part of this post.


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