Environmental Experts Raise Alarm over Weakening of Impact Assessment Act

Ecojustice – West Coast Environmental Law – MiningWatch Canada

Budget bill amendments diminish feds’ role in assessing climate impacts of major projects

OTTAWA / Traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg people – Environmental and public interest groups are expressing deep frustration over proposed amendments to the Impact Assessment Act introduced in the Budget Implementation Act. The groups are concerned that with these amendments, the government is abdicating its responsibility to properly assess the climate impacts of projects across Canada.

Presented as a response to the Supreme Court of Canada decision last October, the proposed amendments would scale back federal roles in impact assessment, leaving significant gaps that threaten the environment and public health. While the Court found that the Impact Assessment Act required minor changes to respect provincial jurisdiction, the new amendments are much more dramatic – removing greenhouse gas emissions as a factor to consider when making decisions.

In an open letter to Cabinet, the groups call on the government to rethink the amendments and retain important considerations, such as climate impacts, within the scope of the Act.


Anna Johnston, Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law, said:

As Canadians gear up for another devastating wildfire season and other worsening impacts of the climate crisis, it is troubling that the federal government would choose to abandon its responsibility to look at the climate effects of major projects. The Supreme Court of Canada took issue with how the federal government asserted jurisdiction over climate under the Impact Assessment Act, but not the fact that they could do so. Instead of a simple fix, the government is throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Josh Ginsberg, Ecojustice lawyer said:

The proposed amendments to the Impact Assessment Act mention cross-border water pollution, but strangely omit cross-border air pollution including greenhouse gasses. The changes shirk the federal government's important role in considering the climate impacts of major projects. Only the federal government can assess whether emissions are so severe they threaten the country’s ability to effectively fight the climate crisis. We urge Canada to amend the bill to cover transboundary air pollution, including nationally-significant GHG emissions. Climate action in Canada depends on it.

Jamie Kneen, National Program Co-Lead, MiningWatch Canada, said:

The role of the federal government is crucial in protecting the public interest. Beyond the uncertainty created by a patchwork of inconsistent provincial requirements, the provinces are simply not equipped, or not willing, to take environmental assessment seriously.

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

  • Anna Johnston, Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law, [email protected], (604) 340-2304 (WhatsApp or Signal)
  • Josh Ginsberg, Staff Lawyer, Ecojustice, [email protected], (613) 903-5898
  • Jamie Kneen, National Program Co-Lead, MiningWatch Canada, [email protected], (613) 761-2273