Steven Guilbeault, minister of environment and climate change, on behalf of the Canadian government, has unveiled plans to offer guidance on the interim administration of the Impact Assessment Act (IAA), following an opinion from the Supreme Court. The IAA serves as a project tool for the government, enabling the evaluation of projects’ social, economic, environmental and health-related impacts, along with their effects on Indigenous communities and rights.
The Canadian government aims to pave a “clear path forward” for businesses, provinces, Indigenous groups and stakeholders currently involved in major projects undergoing assessment. The newly introduced guidance outlines several points:
- Comprehensive project evaluation: The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada will assess all ongoing projects. They will gauge their impact on federal jurisdictional areas and provide expert opinions accordingly.
- Continued collaboration: Project proponents should continue to sustain their information-sharing efforts, facilitating the progression of their assessments.
- Indigenous consultations: Ongoing consultations with Indigenous Peoples will persist within existing assessment processes, focusing on matters falling under federal jurisdiction.
- Temporary suspension of designation authority: The Minister’s discretionary powers to designate projects will be temporarily suspended. Reconsideration requests for new designations will happen once updated legislation comes into effect.
- Collaborative approach: The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada is prepared to assess the need for a comprehensive impact evaluation.
- Continuation of regional assessments: Ongoing regional assessments, including the Ring of Fire in Ontario and offshore wind projects in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, will continue. These assessments focus on understanding impacts and do not involve specific project decision-making.
“The Supreme Court of Canada’s opinion on impact assessment means we now have clarity to better align the IAA to areas of federal jurisdiction while continuing to protect the environment,” Guilbeault said. “The Government of Canada is doing its part and looks to the provincial governments to do theirs, so we can work together to protect the environment and advance sustainable development in Canada in the spirit of cooperative federalism.”
There are currently 23 projects in the assessment process under the Impact Assessment Act. Twenty other projects are still under review using the former legislation, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012.