Government of Canada


Environmental assessment is a process used to identify the future consequences of a proposed action. It is a planning tool that provides decision makers with the information they need to make informed decisions in the best interest of Canadians.

Environmental Assessment aims to:

Federal environmental assessment requirements and processes are governed by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012) in most regions of Canada.

CEAA 2012 does not generally apply north of 60˚ where there are environmental assessment regimes that have resulted from land claim agreements. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is responsible for administering CEAA 2012, maintaining a Public Registry of environmental assessments, and conducting environmental assessments where they are the Responsible Authority (RA). Other RA's under CEAA 2012 include the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

  • 1974: Cabinet establishes the federal environmental assessment and review process (EARP) and commits to reviewing environmental effects of decisions. The Federal Environmental Assessment Review Office (FEARO) is created for administering the environmental assessment and review process.
  • 1984: Government of Canada adopts the Environmental Assessment and Review Process (EARP) Guidelines Order, which formalized environmental review processes. The Guidelines Order clarified vague processes and the roles and responsibilities of the various parties.
  • 1992: The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) receives royal assent, establishing federal environmental assessment in legislation for the first time.
  • 1995: CEAA comes into force and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is established as a body to support other federal departments in their application of the Act and its regulations.
  • 2003: Amendments to CEAA are made as a result of a 5 year-review of the Act, resulting in a more significant role for the Agency in coordinating environmental assessments.
  • 2010: Amendments to CEAA make the Agency the responsible authority for most comprehensive-study type assessments.
  • 2012: CEAA is replaced through Bill C-38 with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012).
  • 2016: the Minister of Environment launches the review of environmental assessment processes and announces that an Expert Panel will lead the review.

What is the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012?

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012) and its regulations establish the legislative basis for the federal practice of environmental assessment in most regions of Canada.

CEAA 2012 intends to:

  • Protect components of the environment that are within federal jurisdiction from significant adverse environmental effects caused by a designated project;
  • Ensure that designated projects are considered and carried out in a careful and precautionary manner;
  • Promote cooperation and coordination between federal and provincial governments;
  • Promote communication and cooperation with Indigenous peoples;
  • Ensure that opportunities are provided for meaningful public participation;
  • Ensure that environmental assessments are completed in a timely manner;
  • Encourage federal authorities to take actions in a manner that promotes sustainable development; and
  • Encourage the study of the cumulative effects of physical activities in a region.

More information about CEAA 2012 can be found in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s basics of environmental assessment.

The Government of Canada consults with Indigenous peoples as part of the environmental assessment process for a variety of reasons, including: statutory and contractual obligations, policy and good governance, and the common law duty to consult.

The Government of Canada takes a "Whole of Government" approach to Indigenous consultation in the context of environmental assessments to ensure that Indigenous groups are sufficiently consulted when the Crown (federal government) contemplates action(s) that may adversely impact potential or established Aboriginal or Treaty rights. These rights are recognized and affirmed in Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Through the environmental assessment process, Indigenous groups have an opportunity to comment on:

  • Potential environmental effects of the project and how they should be included in the environmental assessment;
  • The potential impacts of a project on potential or established Aboriginal or Treaty rights;
  • Mitigation measures; and
  • Follow-up programs.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has compiled links to other federal, provincial and territorial departments and agencies with responsibilities related to the environmental assessment.



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