Environmental assessment (EA) is our key tool for making environmental decisions, such whether to approve projects like pipelines, dams and mines. It also has the potential to be an important tool that can help with the development of sustainable plans, programs and policies. But in Canada, this system is broken.
The new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012) – enacted as part of omnibus “budget” bill C-38 – is not working for the environment, the public or industry. It restricts the quality and quantity of information necessary for making sound decisions, reviews far too few activities and shuts citizens out of decision-making, forcing them to take to the courts and the streets for a fair consideration of their concerns.
Replacing CEAA, 2012 with a visionary, sustainability-based next-generation environmental assessment law will help ensure a healthy, secure, more democratic and sustainable Canada.
In May 2016, environmental assessment experts from across Canada gathered at the Federal EA Reform Summit organized by West Coast Environmental Law to discuss, crystallize thinking, weigh options and seek to find common ground on solutions to key issues in federal EA in preparation for participation in the mandated review of EA processes.
In September 2016, an Expert Panel launched a public review of Canada’s environmental assessment processes. During its cross-country engagement tour, the Panel heard from Canadians about the urgent need for a stronger, fairer law governing how we make decisions about things like pipelines, dams, government policies and meeting our international commitments to address climate change.
From the outcomes of the Federal EA Reform Summit, West Coast Environmental Law developed 12 Pillars of Next Generation Environmental Assessment, recommending a set of integrated reforms to strengthen Canada’s environmental assessment framework.
These reforms include:
- Sustainability as a core objective, to ensure the long-term health of the environment and communities
- Meaningful public participation for everyone
- Accessible information for the public, Indigenous groups and stakeholders
- A climate test to ensure Canada stays on track to meet its climate goals
- A framework for addressing the cumulative effects of industrial and other activities regionally
- Collaborative decision-making with Indigenous governments, based on nation-to-nation relationships and the obligation to secure free, prior and informed consent
- Rules and criteria to encourage transparency, accountability and credibility, and to ensure decisions are based on science, knowledge and public participation
To learn more about the summit, and the resulting 12 Pillars of Next Generation Environmental Assessment, click here.
- September 19, 2016 – Expert Panel launched its public review of environmental assessment processes, beginning its cross-country tour with public hearings and workshops in Saskatoon, SK
- December 15, 2016 – Final in-person engagement session, in Nanaimo, BC
- December 23, 2016 – Closing date for written and online submissions
- March 31, 2017 –The Expert Panel submitted its report and recommendations to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
- May 5, 2017 – Deadline to comment on the Expert Panel report
- June 2017 – Once the Expert Panel has completed its work, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change will consider the recommendations in the Panel's report and identify next steps to improve federal environmental assessment processes
- Fall 2017 – The government intends to begin drafting a bill that will either significantly change or replace the current Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.
- Late 2017 or early 2018 – The government plans to introduce the bill in Parliament, where it must go through readings in the House and Senate, and be considered by Parliamentary and Senate Committees, before it can be passed into law.
- Late 2018 – The government hopes to pass its environmental assessment bill into law.
For more information, visit the Expert Panel's website:
Ways to participate
In fall 2016, thousands of Canadians participated in the EA review – through written submissions, commenting online and attending in-person events held in communities across the country. The Expert Panel hosted public and Indigenous engagement sessions, as well as workshops and open dialogues, to hear a diverse range of views about what’s working – and what’s not working – in federal environmental assessment.
To see what Canadians told the Panel during the engagement sessions, visit:
Now, MPs and Cabinet Ministers need to hear from Canadians about the importance of enacting a next-generation environmental assessment law. You can take action now by sending a letter demanding a stronger, fairer assessment law that upholds democracy; respects Indigenous rights and authority; and protects nature, communities and the economy for generations to come.
- WCEL Submissions on Next Generation Environmental Assessment
(By West Coast Environmental Law Association, December 2016)
West Coast's submissions to the Expert Panel as part of the EA Review, outlining key issues and recommendations for reform.
- Federal Environmental Assessment Reform Summit – Exec. Summary
(By West Coast Environmental Law Association, August 2016)
Outcomes from the May 2016 summit on EA reform, based on the collective wisdom of over 30 of Canada’s leading thinkers on the subject – including the 12 Pillars for Next Generation Environmental Assessment.
- #LetsTalkEA Video Series
(By The Legitimacy Project – Building Better Environmental Laws, 2016)
An online video series by the Winnipeg-based Legitimacy Project that aims to understand, and where appropriate, provide solutions, to develop robust management frameworks and evidence-based environmental decisions.
- Blogs on environmental assessment: