Government of Canada

 

Back Montréal, QC

The Expert Panel (the Panel) for the review of environmental assessment (EA) processes met in Montréal on October 26 and 27, 2016, for in-person sessions which included public and Indigenous presentations, a public workshop and an Indigenous open dialogue session.

The following summary presents the comments and input received throughout these in-person engagement sessions. It is intended to present the views of participants, and not the views of the Panel itself.

The summary is organized using the Panel’s “Suggested Themes for Discussion”, available on the Panel’s website at www.EAreview.ca.

The Panel wishes to thank all those who participated for sharing their expertise and experience at these sessions.

Environmental Assessment in Context

Public sessions – October 26, 2016

Participants indicated that EAs should focus primarily on sustainable development and assess projects' contributions to national and international objectives such as the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Under this approach, a project that goes against these objectives should not be authorized to continue. Others felt that the rationale for the projects should be evaluated first and that environmental issues should have precedence, since it is no longer acceptable to justify long-term environmental impacts over short-term economic considerations. Lastly, some noted the importance of considering the precautionary principle in EA.

Some participants noted that it can be difficult to complete some projects because they are contested which can diminish investors' confidence. They feel that the economic and environmental benefits of the projects should be discussed more thoroughly in order to encourage acceptance. With respect to using the best technology available, certain participants stated that it is unacceptable for less efficient alternatives to be chosen because of lower costs.

Overarching Indigenous Considerations

Public sessions – October 26, 2016

Participants felt that it was important for Indigenous traditional knowledge to be considered because it allows for appropriate mitigation measures and contributes to stronger relationships between the project proponent and Indigenous groups. As for consent, certain participants felt that Indigenous groups should have the opportunity to give their approval to projects that impact them.

Indigenous sessions – October 27, 2016

For Indigenous people to consider the EA process to be legitimate, and to restore trust in the decision-making structures, participants noted that it is essential to recognize and respect their rights. Participants also recommended early involvement of Indigenous people, from the start of the process, within co-management structures such as those established in modern treaties. Participants felt that a strict interpretation of Indigenous rights is inefficient and a source of conflicts, as demonstrated by the Site C and Muskrat Falls projects.

The Panel heard many comments about the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and particularly the concept of free, prior and informed consent. It was explained that it is not necessarily a veto right, but rather a principle of good governance that could be achieved when Indigenous people have a significant involvement in the processes leading to decisions.

Impact and benefit agreements that are negotiated between proponents and Indigenous groups were also discussed and described as a way of privatizing consent. The Panel heard that this type of agreement leads Indigenous groups to give their consent, while they are given a certain control over the projects. However, many concerns were raised. First, there is a risk that consent could be given for economic reasons, and environmental and social considerations dismissed. Second, these agreements are often negotiated before the EA is completed, which results in Indigenous groups giving consent without having all the necessary information. Lastly, these agreements are often confidential. Governments, regulatory organizations and, in some cases, even the Indigenous communities affected generally do not have access to the details of these agreements. It was suggested that the government oversee the negotiation of these agreements, in particular by ensuring that their content is transparent and accessible, while leaving negotiations on the content to the parties involved.

Some participants recommended the creation of an independent government authority with the mandate to lead Indigenous consultations, establish a model for consent by deliberation and supervise the agreements negotiated between the proponents and the groups involved. The members of this authority would be appointed by the government and the Indigenous people.

Planning of Environmental Assessment

Public sessions – October 26, 2016

The Panel heard many comments about the circumstances under which a federal EA should be required. Some felt that federal EA should be limited to large projects with high environmental risks or when the federal government is involved. Others suggested that an EA should be required when there is a risk of increased carbon in the air, a violation of the common good, a threat to human rights or when a province is unable to conduct a proper EA. Certain participants also suggested that EAs should be required when the public requests it and the power to set guidelines must be limited in order to respect the public's wishes.

Some participants felt that only the environmental elements under the federal government's responsibility should be considered. Others believed that EAs should consider all the environmental, social and economic impacts, in particular by conducting analyses based on gender, health and the climate, for the entire duration of the project.

Some participants suggested mediation for all projects subject to an EA that raise more local or private issues. Concerns were also noted regarding the diversity of procedures to assess the impact of projects on federal land that are not subject to an EA. Some asked for a simplified and standardized procedure to be implemented. Moreover, participants suggested that strategic EAs should be used as references for project EAs. Similarly, others felt that projects that are inconsistent with the objectives resulting from strategic EAs could be refused before the project EA even begins.

Conduct of Environmental Assessment

Public sessions – October 26, 2016

Some participants asked for the number of government contacts the proponents must communicate with to be reduced and questioned the need to have multiple authorities to conduct an EA. Others recommended implementing a completely independent organization to strengthen public confidence in the process. It was also suggested that citizen and Indigenous representatives be part of such an organization.

Participants felt that during the EA, specialists qualified in social sciences should conduct social analyses and departments with economic vocations could provide advice on the potential economic contribution of a project. While certain participants were in favour of maintaining a role for proponents during the environmental impact statement, others recommended that these studies be done by the government or an independent organization that would use its own experts.

The Panel also heard comments on the comprehensiveness of an EA. Some participants worried that certain important elements were not reviewed. As to the time required to properly conduct an EA, participants noted that it was important to have a clear, coherent and timely process in order to minimize delays. However, they also noted the importance of flexibility so that the public could participate in a meaningful way.

Decision and Follow-up

Public sessions – October 26, 2016

The Panel heard a variety of visions about the decision-making process. Some participants supported the current process where decisions are made by government authorities and Cabinet. Some suggested co management by Environment and Climate Change Canada and Health Canada. Other participants recommended that the decision be de-politicized and delegated to a committee of experts or an independent organization appointed by various parties concerned. Lastly, some noted the importance of including the public in the decision, either on a consensual basis or by attributing a veto right to the communities affected. Participants also asked that the decisions be explained and suggested implementing a mechanism that would allow citizens to appeal from the decisions.

With regard to the information to be considered in an EA, participants mentioned scientific data, historical, social, cultural and economic studies, community and indigenous traditional knowledge as well as best practices and experiences abroad. Some participants proposed the creation of a database that contains a variety of articles and studies that could be used as information for the EA. Some participants talked about the possibility of addressing uncertainty with sensitivity and cost-benefit analyses or even by exercising caution and recognizing that waiting before acting can sometimes be necessary when faced with insufficient data. The practice of excluding data when there is too much uncertainty was denounced by some; others felt that eliminating data should be done with a justification to avoid any perception of arbitrariness or bias.

Some participants believed an environmental follow up should be done by an independent third party, while others believed that the follow up was first and foremost a government responsibility. Some participants also noted the importance of applying the law and suggested an injunction power be made available to the public to ensure that the conditions found in the EA decision statements are respected.

Public Involvement

Public sessions – October 26, 2016

The Panel heard that the dialogue with the public was important to the EA process, not only to obtain information that could be used for environmental impact studies but also to encourage social acceptance of the project. Participants asked for increased participation at the start of projects so that their concerns could be taken into consideration early in the process. They also felt that a significant, efficient and credible consultation process should hold events close to the affected communities, encourage participation by extending the timelines and be open to all interested parties. The participants should also have the possibility of affecting the results and knowing how their contribution was considered. The Panel heard that it is essential for the public to receive clear, complete, relevant information in a timely manner and in both official languages. The Panel also heard that it is important to provide adequate financial aid to ensure a meaningful participation by the public, even when the EA procedure is the subject of an equivalency or substitution process.

Coordination

Public sessions – October 26, 2016

The Panel heard concerns about the various EA processes that operate in parallel and sometimes come to different conclusions. According to the participants, this approach does nothing to build public confidence in the EA processes and creates extreme consultation fatigue. Participants believed that EA processes should be better integrated, thereby reducing confusion and contradictions. Some participants also noted that they support the principle of one project-one EA. Others asked for coordination mechanisms in the current law, such as substitution and equivalence, to no longer be used. The Panel also heard that the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) has proven itself to the public and could replace the federal EA process, if federal experts joined in on cases involving projects under federal jurisdiction.

Indigenous sessions – October 27, 2016

The Panel also heard comments on the processes established under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA) and it was suggested that they replace the federal EA processes for any project proposed on the territory, since they are considered legitimate. These processes include meaningful consultations with Indigenous groups and decisions are made by consensus. Other characteristics of EA regimes under the JBNQA that were noted include consideration of the social effects and the possibility of extending the consultation periods.

Annex I

Public sessions – October 26, 2016

List of Presenters

  • David Lauretti, Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec
  • Jean Piette, Conseil patronal de l’environnement du Québec
  • Jacques Tétrault, Comité des Citoyens et Citoyennes pour la Protection de l’Environnement Maskoutain
  • Marie-Eve Maillé, Notre Boite Renforcement des Collectivités
  • Robyn Palin, RPPR Inc
  • Hugh Benevides
  • Jonathan Théoret, Groupe de recherche appliquée en macroécologie
  • Karine Péloffy, Quebec Environmental Law Centre
  • Pierre Batellier

Workshop Participants

  • There were 14 participants.

Indigenous sessions – October 27, 2016

List of Presenters

  • Martin Papillon
  • Brian Craik and Jean-Sébastien Clément, Grand Council of the Crees

Open Dialogue Participants

  • There were 4 participants.

Submissions Received in Montréal

Title

Author

Date Posted

View Full Submission

Transcript - Public Presentations, Montréal Oct 26

Montréal Transcript

December 29, 2016

Speaking notes for presentation "Toward Next-Generation EA — Presentation to Expert Panel, Review of Environmental" In Montreal Oct. 26

Hugh Benevides

December 09, 2016

Transcript - Indigenous Presentations, Montreal Oct 27

Montreal Transcript

November 29, 2016

Speaking notes for presentation ''Presentation to the Expert Panel Canada's Environmental Assessment Processes'' for Montréal Oct 26

Robin Palin, RPPR Inc

October 31, 2016

Presentation ''Presentation to the Expert Panel Canada's Environmental Assessment Processes'' for Montréal le Oct 26

Robin Palin, RPPR Inc

October 31, 2016

Présentation ''Contribution dans le cadre de l'examen des processus d'évaluation environnementale fédérale'' pour Montréal le 26 octobre

Pierre Batellier

October 31, 2016

Présentation ''Contribution à l'examen des processus d'évaluation environnementale: L'importance de l'analyse des impacts sociaux et de l'analyse comparative entre les sexes'' pour Montréal le 26 octobre

Marie-Ève Maillé, Notreboite Renforcement des Collectivités

October 31, 2016

Présentation ''Mémoire soumis au comité d'experts chargés par la Minister de l'Environnement et du Changement Climatique d'examiner les processus fédéraux d'évaluation environnementale au Canada'' pour Montréal le 26 octobre

Jacques Tétrault, Comité des Citoyens et Citoyennes pour la Protection de l’Environnement Maskoutain

October 31, 2016

Présentation ''Présentation sur le cadre entourant les changements climatiques dans les évaluations environnementales'' pour Montréal le 26 octobre

Karine Peloffy, Centre Québécois du Droit de l'Environnement

October 31, 2016

Présentation ''Commentaire du CPEQ portant sur la révision des processus d'évaluation environnementale'' pour Montréal le 26 octobre

Jean Piette, Conseil Patronale de l’Environnement du Québec

October 31, 2016

Présentation '' Towards Next-Generation EA'' pour Montréal le 26 octobre

Hugh Benevides

October 31, 2016

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