Environmental Assessment Expert Panel Report provides Strong Foundation for Restoring Public Trust in Environmental Reviews

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Ottawa (April 5, 2017) – The report of the Expert Panel reviewing Canada’s environmental assessment law, released today, provides a strong foundation for restoring public trust in how natural resources are developed, says Nature Canada.

“Congratulations to the Expert Panel on an excellent report. If implemented by legislation, the Panel’s recommendations would greatly assist in achieving sustainability, reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, protecting biodiversity, and promoting reconciliation with Indigenous people” says Stephen Hazell, Nature Canada’s Director of Conservation and General Counsel.

“This past autumn, the Expert Panel heard from Canadians at hearings across the country demanding a next-generation law to assess the effects of proposed developments such as pipelines, oil sands projects, dams and mines,” says Hazell. “This report provides a critical, in some ways innovative, framework for that next-generation law.”

Some of the key recommendations include:

  • Focusing impact assessments on determining whether a proposed project or policy contributes a net benefit to environmental, economic, social, health and cultural well-being;
  • Establishing an independent quasi-judicial commission to conduct all federal impact assessments using a full range of dispute-resolution processes;
  • Transferring impact assessment responsibilities from the National Energy Board and Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to the new Impact Assessment Commission;
  • Engaging Indigenous peoples in decision-making at all stages of impact assessment, in accordance with their laws and customs;

Considering Indigenous rights in all impact assessments;

  • Establishing planning as the first stage in all impact assessments so that there can be early coordination among governments, and tailoring of the impact assessment process to the circumstances of the project or policy;
  • Requiring strategic environmental assessments and regional environmental assessments in certain circumstances; and,
  • Authorizing the Impact Assessment Commission to lead teams planning and studying the impacts of a project.

Nature Canada has identified several concerns with the report that can be addressed in the government’s response and legislative process:

  • It is unclear what projects will be required to be assessed under the new law. The Expert Panel stated that there would be more projects assessed than under CEAA 2012, but fewer than under CEAA 1992. For example, there is no clear recommendation requiring impacts assessments of development projects in National Parks or National Wildlife Areas, nor projects that produce high levels of greenhouse gas emissions;
  • The engagement of Indigenous peoples in decision-making relating to impact assessment will require more consideration as well as consultations between Indigenous People and governments. The report promotes a collaborative approach to impact assessment, but it is uncertain how impact assessment can work if other parties (such as provincial governments) are unwilling to collaborate.

The federal government is accepting comments on the Expert Panel report for 30 days.


For more information, please contact:

Stephen Hazell | Director of Conservation & General Counsel, Nature Canada

613-724-1908 (cell)
613-562-3447 ext. 240 (office)
shazell@naturecanada.ca (email)

For media assistance or further information contact: 

Janet Weichel McKenzie
Media Specialist, Nature Canada
613-808-4642 jweichelmckenze@gmail.com

About Nature Canada

Nature Canada is Canadian nature conservation charity. Over the past 75 years, Nature Canada has helped protect over 63 million acres of parks and wildlife areas in Canada and countless species that depend on this habitat. Today, Nature Canada represents a network comprised of over 45,000 members and supporters and more than 350 nature organizations across the country and with affiliates in every province.