Making Federal Environmental Assessment Work for the Public and the Planet

Submission to the Expert Panel Reviewing Environmental Assessment Processes

Based on our work, we would like to focus on four areas within the collective recommendations of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Caucus, the Multi-Interest Advisory Committee (MIAC), and the EA Reform Summit.

  1. The need to extend assessment beyond biophysical impacts to look at sustainability more inclusively and holistically, including economic, social, and cultural aspects that are currently excluded – or applied as decision-making criteria without having been subject to review and public scrutiny; this has also been discussed as “next-generation EA”.
  2. The need to assess the environmental impacts (and sustainability) of regional development plans (regional EA) and policies, plans, and programs (strategic EA) as well as individual projects, and to ensure that there are effective linkages between these different ‘tiers’ of assessment to allow issues arising in project assessments to be brought into regional and strategic EA, and for regional and strategic EA to provide effective guidance for project EA.
  3. The need for a coherent national approach to EA, underpinned by a strong federal role to ensure transparency, consistency, and accountability to the extent possible within Canada’s constitutional division of powers and the recognition and protection of Indigenous jurisdiction and authority, both through negotiated agreements with Canada and in a nation-to-nation relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples. The rationales for provincial EA processes to be substituted for federal ones, and for multiple federal processes under different EA authorities, are not compelling.
  4. The need to ensure that the public has a meaningful role in EA processes, including sufficient time and resources to gather and analyse information as well as to share and discuss information. The EA process must be capable of meaningfully changing the project or plan depending on public input, including rejecting unacceptable or unjustifiable ones.