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Environmental lawyers urge Senate to advance new laws for natural resource projects and fisheries

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Passing of Bill C-68 and C-69 a critical step in fixing Canada’s broken environmental laws, but supporting regulations will be key to the Bills’ success

VANCOUVER/OTTAWA — The passing of Bill C-68 and Bill C-69 in the House of Commons are important developments that will help repair some of the damage done to Canada’s environmental laws in 2012, say lawyers at West Coast Environmental Law Association, but the Bills still need to pass the Senate before they can take force.

Bill C-69 – which introduces a new federal Impact Assessment Act and Canadian Energy Regulator Act, and makes changes to the Navigation Protection Act – passed third reading today in Parliament. This key development follows a detailed review and amendments by the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. Bill C-68, which contains crucial amendments to the Fisheries Act, also passed in the House of Commons last night.

“The Committee has made important amendments to Bill C-69, including some changes that we’ve been asking for since the bill was tabled in February,” said Staff Lawyer Anna Johnston.

“The Bill is far from perfect, but with these amendments we feel more confident that Canada’s new impact assessment regime will help ensure sustainability and avoid decisions that put politics ahead of science and environmental protection,” she said. “The Committee clearly listened to the experts like us who testified about the need to tighten up the rules in order to restore public trust, protect the environment and respect Indigenous authority. Now, we just need to see this bill pass.”

Notable amendments made to Bill C-69 in the Committee stage include limiting the role of energy regulators in assessments, better ensuring that decisions will foster sustainability, and requiring the new Canadian Energy Regulator to consider climate change when reviewing pipelines, offshore petroleum projects and transmission lines.

Bill C-68 reinstates strong habitat protection for all fish in Canada. Modernizations will enhance protection for environmental flows, a key feature of fish habitat. The Bill also enables quicker action to close fisheries that may be having negative impacts on whales, and allows for the creation of long-term fisheries closures to safeguard marine biodiversity. Many of West Coast's recommendations for reform are included in the Bill.

Bills C-68 and C-69 will both be sent to the Senate for review this fall, where West Coast lawyers hope they will not be held up. West Coast Environmental Law Association will continue to work with the federal government to ensure that the Bills and relevant regulations are in place by the end of the year, in order to put Canada back on track to meet commitments for protecting the environment, fighting climate change and upholding Indigenous rights.

In addition to the progress of the Bills, West Coast is paying close attention to ongoing debate about regulations associated with the new Impact Assessment Act. These regulations, which have been open for consultation in recent months, will determine what information is required for assessments, how to manage timelines, and the types of projects that get assessed.

“There’s still a lot left to discuss in terms of how the bill will be implemented on the ground. Canada is one step closer to enacting a stronger, more balanced assessment law – but that law won’t be helpful if it doesn’t apply to the wide range of projects, proposals and plans that put nature, communities and the climate at risk. That’s where the regulations come in,” said Johnston.

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For more information, please contact:

Anna Johnston | Staff Lawyer
604-340-2304, ajohnston@wcel.org

Linda Nowlan | Staff Lawyer
604-684-7378 ext. 217, lnowlan@wcel.org