In June 1989, following the Exxon-Valdez spill, the Canadian federal government appointed the Public Review Panel on Tanker Safety and Marine Spills Response Capability (the Brander-Smith Panel). The Panel submitted its final report in October 1990, to which the government made a preliminary response in November of that year.

The Brander-Smith report concluded that a catastrophic marine oil spill - a spill of over 10,000 tonnes - can be expected once every fifteen years in Canadian waters. A major spill (100 to 10,000 tonnes) can be expected once a year. It was found that the risk of spills is highest in eastern Canada, particularly Newfoundland, which is heavily dependent on the sea for its livelihood.

During 1991 to 1993, considerable planning work was undertaken by the Canadian Coast Guard ( CCG ) and Environment Canada, in consultation with the private sector, on the development of the two main elements of a private-sector funded response capability.

There were proposals to amend the Canada Shipping Act, 2001, and thus implement improvements to Canada's spill response capability.

A public accountability mechanism was required in each region to provide those potentially affected by a spill with a means of ensuring that the marine environment was adequately protected by the Canadian Oil Spill Response Regime and a means of offering ideas, advice and recommendation to responsible government.

An important initiative of Chapter 36 was the requirement to establish Regional Advisory Councils on Oil Spill Response in a number of geographical areas. The first meeting of each RAC took place in 1996.