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House of Commons Passes Reformed Environmental Laws
Parliament of Canada, House of Commons.
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House of Commons Passes Reformed Environmental Laws

[caption id="attachment_37532" align="alignleft" width="150"] Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and Legal Counsel.[/caption] On June 20, 2018, the House of Commons passed two important environmental laws -- Bills C-68 and C-69.  Bill C-68 reforms the Fisheries Act, largely fulfilling the Trudeau government’s election promise to restore legal protection of fish habitat. Bill C-69 includes two new laws: Impact Assessment Act and Canadian Energy Regulator Act, and amendments to the Navigable Waters Act. Nature Canada’s view is that, overall, a reasonable balance has been struck in Bill C-69 and that it will assist in regaining public trust in reviews of natural resource development projects. This new legislation is a darn sight better than what we have right now. Bill C-69 includes important reforms such as emphasizing sustainability and a single-agency approach to assessing resource projects, eliminating rules restricting public participation in hearings, and establishing a legislative framework for conducting regional and strategic impact assessments.  The House of Commons Environment Committee successfully added several helpful amendments to Bill C-69 including the following:

  • the government’s mandate in administering the Act is expanded to include respect for commitments to the rights of the Indigenous peoples of Canada and exercise powers to adheres to principles of scientific integrity, honesty, objectivity, thoroughness and accuracy;
  • decisions on projects will be “based on” the impact assessment report and in consideration of section 63 factors;
  • references to public participation were generally revised to add the adjective “meaningful”; and
  • Regulators such as the Canadian Energy Regulator and Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission may not constitute a majority on review panels, nor may they control the chair.

The Senate now has the opportunity to consider Bills C-68 and C-69. However, the current Parliamentary session will end 12 months from now, after which the campaign leading up to the October 2019 federal election will begin in earnest.  We expect that this schedule provides plenty of time for the Senate to complete its deliberations and pass these bills. Assuming Bills C-68 and 69 are passed by the Senate, their effectiveness depends hugely on regulations now being developed. The current federal environmental assessment law requires only that a handful of projects—mainly mining projects—be assessed in any given year by virtue of their being listed in a regulation. Nature Canada will be arguing strenuously that regulations should require that the following categories of projects should be required to be assessed by law:
  • projects that produce large quantities of greenhouse gas or other air pollutants (such as the proposed cement plant to be located near Hawksbury Ontario 70 km upwind from Montreal);
  • projects that are to be located in National Parks or National Wildlife Areas (such as the proposed alpine facilities in Banff National Park for the Calgary 2026 Winter Olympics bid); and
  • projects that require permits or approvals under the Fisheries Act or Species at Risk Act.
To Nature Canada, it is just common sense that projects that affect Canada’s ability to meet its responsibilities under the Paris Climate Accord or the Convention on Biological Diversity should automatically be assessed under federal law.
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Hazell: Testimony at the House of Commons for Bill C-69
Parliament of Canada, House of Commons.
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Hazell: Testimony at the House of Commons for Bill C-69

[caption id="attachment_36177" align="alignleft" width="150"] Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and General Counsel[/caption] On Thursday, April 18th, Stephen Hazell, the Director of Conservation and General Counsel at Nature Canada testified before the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. The Committee is considering Bill C-69, an omnibus bill to reform laws governing environmental assessment, the National Energy Board, and navigable waters. Read the following brief for an update on Nature Canada's position of Bill C-69. Stephen remarked that the proposed Impact Assessment Act includes important reforms such as establishing a strong Impact Assessment Agency; requiring assessments to consider a project's contribution to sustainability, Indigenous knowledge and Canada's climate commitments; and increasing transparency in decisions by requiring the Minister and Cabinet to provide reasons for approvals.


Nature Canada argued in it’s brief  and in Stephen’s testimony that the Impact Assessment Act needed amendments to achieve the following:
  • Restore legal requirements and reduce Ministerial discretion to reduce process uncertainty and potential political interference
  • Ensure assessments of projects likely to have adverse environmental effects that are subject to a federal decision
  • Ensure meaningful public participation in impact assessments
  • Put the federal house in order by strengthening impact assessments of projects on federal lands or that are federally financed
  • Restrict the role of energy regulators in the review panel process
  • Establish a legislative framework that ensures that regional assessment and strategic assessment tools are workable.

If you want to protect nature in Canada, take this opportunity to restore and strengthen legal protections by signing our petition!


After the committee hearing, Stephen touched upon other facets of Bill C-69 and the Impact Assessment Act that would effect nature in Canada, such as the proposed hosting of the 2026 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Alberta. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78n_ywIHOgQ&feature=youtu.be
Maura Forrest at National Post quoted Stephen, highlighting that "Environmental groups point out that the government has yet to publish its project list, meaning it's still unclear which activities will be subject to assessment. Even those projects on the list won't necessarily be assessed, because the government can decide they don't require review after a new early planning phase the Liberals have introduced."

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New Federal Law Improves Resource Project Reviews, Helps Regain Public Trust
News

New Federal Law Improves Resource Project Reviews, Helps Regain Public Trust

Ottawa, ON (February 8, 2018) — Bill C-69, the proposed Canadian Impact Assessment Act, improves greatly on the Harper government’s 2012 law, but amendments are needed if the federal government is to regain public trust in reviews of pipeline and other projects and position Canada for a sustainable future. “Bill C-69 represents important reform by emphasizing sustainability, a single-agency approach to assessing resource projects, and eliminating rules restricting public participation in hearings” says Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and General Counsel. “But amendments will be needed if this law is to support Canada’s international commitments to reverse biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” “Nature Canada is disappointed that the Bill does not require assessment of the sustainability of proposed government policies, the most important of which is the federal budget.” To regain public trust, Nature Canada supports the designation of the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada as the federal agency solely responsible for conducting federal assessments. Industry-dominated regulators such as the new National Energy Regulator, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and offshore oil and gas boards have a technical role to play in project reviews, but should not control the conduct of these reviews as they do now. “An important positive element of Bill C-69 is that it requires Cabinet and the Environment Minister to make a public interest determination for any assessed project based on factors such as contribution to sustainability, impacts on Indigenous peoples and their rights, and whether the project affects the ability of Canada to meet its environmental obligations and its international climate commitments” adds Hazell. Nature Canada strongly believes that the law should not just apply to major projects, but also to projects that adversely affect the environment and requires some federal approval. For example, Nature Canada believes that high-carbon projects, projects proposed for National Parks and National Wildlife Areas, and projects requiring federal regulatory approvals under key environmental laws such as the Fisheries Act and Species at Risk Act must be assessed by law. Nature Canada supports elimination of restricting public participation in assessments. “All Canadians should have the right to participate in assessments of major development projects such as pipelines. More specifically, we support the elimination of tests to determine standing (e.g., the “directly affected” test) and the guarantee of participation rights in hearings,” says Hazell. Further, the cumulative effects of development in regions facing significant pressures also should be required to be assessed. Bill 69’s emphasis on regional planning is an exciting approach that needs to be fully discussed in Parliament.


For media commentary please contact:  Stephen Hazell, Director of Conservation and General Counsel 613 724-1908 (cell) 613 562-3447 ext. 240 shazell@naturecanada.ca For media assistance please contact: Janet Weichel McKenzie, Nature Canada Media Specialist 613-808-4642 jweichelmckenzie@gmail.com

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