The Government of Canada has released a discussion paper that outlines potential reforms being considered to rebuild trust and modernize Canada’s environmental and regulatory processes. This includes a review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, the National Energy Board Act, the Fisheries Act, and the Navigation Protection Act.
The proposed reforms are based on the guiding principles of early, inclusive and meaningful public engagement; nation-to-nation, Inuit-Crown, and government-to-government partnerships with Indigenous peoples; and timely decisions based on the best available science and traditional knowledge.
The discussion paper outlines a potential path for good projects to proceed in partnership with Indigenous peoples and effective, science-based, enforceable conditions, with clear timelines.
Key measures being considered include:
- Establishing a single government agency responsible for assessments of federally designated projects. The review would go beyond environmental impacts to also consider social, health and economic aspects of a project and require a gender-based analysis. Joint assessments will be undertaken with the life cycle regulator for major energy transmission, nuclear and offshore oil and gas projects. Each review will draw on carefully reviewed scientific evidence, Indigenous knowledge and available data on the cumulative effects in the region where the project is planned.
- Requiring an early planning phase to foster greater collaboration and engagement between proponents, Indigenous peoples, stakeholders, the public and federal and provincial governments. This will build a common understanding of interests and issues and provide greater clarity and certainty to proponents.
- Early and regular engagement and partnership with Indigenous peoples based on recognition of Indigenous rights and interests from the outset, seeking to achieve free, prior and informed consent through processes based on mutual respect and dialogue.
- Restoring lost protections and incorporating modern safeguards to the Fisheries Act and the Navigation Protection Act.
According to the Government of Canada, the objective is to modernize the project assessment process so that decisions can be made effectively and efficiently in collaboration with provinces, territories and Indigenous peoples — with the goal of having one assessment for one project. Doing so will position Canada to remain globally competitive, attract investment, develop natural resources responsibly and advance a clean growth economy.
“We are demonstrating significant progress in our efforts to restore credibility to our environmental and regulatory processes, including modernizing the National Energy Board,” Jim Carr, Minister of Natural ResourcesThe additional engagement this summer will help shape an enduring approach to how natural resource projects are reviewed in the future while ensuring we maintain our global competitiveness through greater certainty for investors and stronger, cleaner economic growth for Canada’s middle class.”
In June 2016, the Government of Canada launched a comprehensive review to address concerns about previous reforms to environmental assessment processes, lost protections for our fisheries and waterways, and the need to modernize the National Energy Board.
The Government of Canada is accepting public comments on the discussion paper until August 28, 2017. To comment, visit www.canada.ca/environmentalreviews.