Government of Canada


Achieving a Next Generation of Environmental Assessment

Submitted By: Jamie Kneen December 14, 2016

Next-generation EA requires the implementation of an integrated package of leading edge law and policy reforms. We have organized the ideas and reforms required for next-generation EA in the federal context into the eight themes that form the chapters of this submission:
1. Achieving cooperative multi-jurisdictional assessment in Canada’s complex federal system;
2. Designing an appropriate structure to deliver effective and robust assessment processes and decisions;
3. Guaranteeing early triggering and effective scoping of assessments;
4. Ensuring effective post decision tracking, reporting, and compliance;
5. Embracing a learning orientation throughout the assessment, decision-making, and follow-up processes;
6. Making sustainability a core principle of assessment;
7. Incorporating the principles of meaningful public participation; and
8. Addressing climate change effects in EA.

These themes revolve around a few core or cross-cutting elements: the need for serious assessment processes at tiers of assessment higher than the project level — namely regional and strategic assessment — with feedback loops among the different tiers; the need to address the cumulative impacts of undertakings of all size and scale; and the need for improved institutional responsiveness and governance to address issues of quality and rigour. We also understand that in next-generation EA, effectiveness, efficiency, and fairness are not competing objectives but are additive and interdependent. These elements have been thoroughly explored and reinforced in the literature, so we simply note that this submission is intended to reinforce and build on that work.

The need – and opportunity – for better recognition of Indigenous jurisdiction and authority and Aboriginal rights, including Canada’s commitments to implement both the Calls to Action of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), is an overarching theme of our work. Reconstructing the federal EA regime represents an important opportunity to create the possibility of reconciliation with respect to Indigenous peoples and territories by building in a respectful place for Indigenous participation in EA, but more importantly by respecting Indigenous authorities and jurisdiction in their own territories.

The other essential theme of our work is the challenge presented by climate change, also involving international commitments by Canada such as the Paris Agreement. Addressing climate change is a daunting problem. EA, and specifically sustainability and cumulative effects assessment, is an essential tool, especially if it includes effective strategic-level EA.

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