VANCOUVER, BC, Coast Salish Territories – The BC government’s newly-announced review of environmental assessment (EA) processes is an important opportunity to transform decision-making in the province, say lawyers at West Coast Environmental Law Association.
The government announced details of the EA revitalization process today, including the names of an independent advisory committee, details of First Nations engagement, as well as planned opportunities for stakeholder and public involvement.
“The move to overhaul BC’s environmental assessment regime is sorely needed. The current model is just not working,” said Gavin Smith, Staff Lawyer. “It’s time for a new approach, one that safeguards ecosystems, recognizes Indigenous jurisdiction, helps BC meet its climate commitments, and responds to community voices.”
In a recent backgrounder, West Coast identified a number of major flaws in BC’s current environmental assessment framework, such as weak public participation, a failure to address the cumulative effects of development, and a failure to recognize First Nations as decision-makers in their territories consistent with the standard of free, prior, informed consent under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
“The current approach to environmental assessment falls short on a number of fronts, and we’ll be actively engaging in this process to ensure those problems are addressed in a new, modernized law,” said Staff Lawyer Anna Johnston. “For British Columbians to put their faith in the process and outcomes of environmental assessment, they need more transparency, accountability, and opportunities to participate in the decisions that affect their communities and the environment.”
Today’s announcement follows commitments in the recent Speech from the Throne, which confirmed the provincial government’s intention to “revitalize BC’s environmental assessment process.” BC’s review also follows the recent introduction of Bill C-69, which will enact a new federal Impact Assessment Act following many months of consultation in which West Coast has played a lead role.
“This provincial review has the potential not only to ensure we make better decisions about projects like mines and pipelines, but also to protect the environment and communities from ‘death by a thousand cuts’ from the combined effects of many forms of development in a region,” Smith said.
According to the provincial government’s release, a discussion paper will be produced for public comment in late spring 2018, following initial engagement, and changes to the environmental assessment process are expected to be introduced in late fall 2018. Ongoing environmental assessments will continue under the current process.
For more information, please contact:
Gavin Smith | Staff Lawyer
Anna Johnston | Staff Lawyer