Government of Canada


Back Prince Rupert, BC

The Expert Panel for the review of environmental assessment (EA) processes met in Prince Rupert on December 8 and 9, 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

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

Environmental Assessment in Context

Public sessions – December 8, 2016

The Panel heard about the loss of trust in the current EA process, and how integrity and public trust need to be restored. Participants expressed their expectations that the government would protect the population’s interests and their feeling that this is not the case currently. They also told the Panel that local interests should have the priority over the national interest.

Participants mentioned having to live with the consequences and legacy of various resource-related booms, the latest one being the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) industry. The Panel heard that there is a need to reflect collectively on the type of economy wanted for Canada’s future; participants noted that land-use planning and the EA process should help implement that vision, for example through regional studies. Some participants saw healthy watersheds and various economic activities coming from those watersheds (salmon fisheries, wild mushrooms, etc.) as being the priority for the region. Others thought that achieving equity and sustainability should be the purpose of EA.

Participants shared with the Panel the view that science should be at the core of any EA. The Panel heard that EA decisions should be based on truth, science and expertise, and that “no” should be an option when it comes to decisions. Finally, the participants thought that decision-makers should be transparent and accountable for their decisions.

Indigenous session – December 9, 2016

The Panel heard that current EA processes need to be redesigned to better account for the goal of reconciliation and to incorporate Indigenous decision-making and governance structures.

Participants explained that this was possible to achieve through the framework of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Participants also stated their desire for a more consensus, dialogue-based EA process.

Participants expressed their views that sustainability should be one of the objectives of EA processes, so that development can meet the needs of the present without compromising future generations and intergenerational equity can be considered. Participants thought that a more sustainable model for EA would also be more capable of taking Indigenous goals and interests into account and create a space for dialogue.

Participants also shared their concerns regarding the Expert Panel’s Review of Environmental Assessment Processes. Participants were of the view that the process has served to reinforce the divide between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities and issues. Participants were critical of the perceived segregation of communities, when what is needed is increased dialogue and understanding between communities and governments. Participants identified a lack of relationship-building opportunities that could build trust in the process. Participants drew a parallel between the Expert Panel’s Review and current EA processes, in that they share the same fundamental flaws and are embedded in the same colonial process.

Overarching Indigenous Considerations

Public sessions – December 8, 2016

During the public sessions, the Panel heard that free, prior and informed consent should be integrated into the renewed EA process. Joint assessments with Indigenous people were recommended. Finally, participants indicated the need for a greater respect for First Nations, mentioning the fact that Prince Rupert is located on unceded territory.

Indigenous session – December 9, 2016

The Panel heard about the importance of recognizing the multiple ways in which Indigenous groups could participate in EA processes, from inherent jurisdictions with decision-making powers to key players in the development of project design, including technical aspects. Participants provided their ideas on different ways in which Indigenous decision-making and governance structures could be incorporated into EA processes. All participants emphasized the need for early engagement in the process and emphasized the need for early dialogue with proponents, the Crown and affected local communities. Early dialogue and relationship building were expressed as essential components to building a process that would respect Indigenous governance structures, worldviews, priorities, and decision-making. Participants stated the need for an EA process that would allow Indigenous groups to share their goals and enter into a nation-to-nation dialogue with government. Further, participants provided examples of what a tripartite EA process could look like.

The Panel heard about the difficulties associated with integrating the duty to consult into the current EA processes, in particular with respect to the government’s use of strength of claim determinations. Participants were of the view that strength of claim determinations only served to foster divisiveness and conflict between Indigenous groups and communities and shaped proponents’ expectations around engagement in a limiting way. Participants further expressed the view that the problems inherent with strength of claim assessment served to constrain Indigenous capacity and lead to incorrect assumptions of minimal impact.

The Panel also heard that Canada needs to adopt a broader, more reconciliation-based approach to consultation, instead of attempting to discharge the duty to consult at the minimal bar. Participants reinforced the point that Indigenous and non-Indigenous interests are not mutually exclusive and that more needs to be done to bring differing views together within the EA process. The Panel also heard that one of the biggest obstacles to reconciliation is that there is currently no mechanism for the joint design of consultation processes; meaningful consultation should include talking about how to consult first.

The Panel heard that the implementation of UNDRIP and the article relating to free, prior and informed consent must recognize that each Indigenous group involved in an EA process must make its own decision, which should be upheld throughout the process and post-EA certificate. Early involvement in development planning, rather than being asked for consent for a pre-planned project, was identified as an important component of free, prior, and informed consent.

Participants also expressed the view that the rules of the game need to change – Indigenous and Canadian processes have never met at middle ground, instead it is always up to Indigenous Peoples to make an extra effort to fit within Canadian processes. Further to this point, participants stated that if the rules of the game do not change, Canadian processes will continue to colonize Indigenous Peoples. The Panel also heard that co-management, and recognition for Indigenous decision-making, needs to be written into any new legislation that may result from this Review.

The Panel heard about the importance of Indigenous traditional knowledge in informing EAs and how current EA processes undermine the value of Indigenous knowledge and input. Participants stated that Indigenous traditional knowledge is often treated as “comment” and is not considered as part of the core information used by the decision-maker.

The Panel heard about the need for a formalized, proactive structure for a nation-to-nation relationship at both technical and leadership levels throughout all aspects of the EA process. Participants stated that this nation-to-nation process must be parallel to the EA process and must be able to address high level issues of consultation and reconciliation that often find their way into existing EA processes with little or no avenue for resolution. Otherwise, participants expressed their view that these issues will continue to seep into EA processes and cause further frustrations and delays. A meaningful and effective nation-to-nation structure requires that Indigenous groups are resourced parallel to federal bureaucracy, in order to support governance processes. The Panel heard examples of ways to move forward with a respectful nation-to-nation relationship, based on traditional ways of interacting with neighbouring groups, resolving disputes, and providing consent. Participants stated that traditional law demands that the option of saying “no” to a proposal is always present.

Planning of Environmental Assessment

Public sessions – December 8, 2016

The Panel heard that strategic EAs should be conducted for emerging industries, for example the LNG industry which has seen a large number of projects in recent years. Participants indicated that a strategic EA would have looked at the sustainability of the industry, assessed cumulative effects of multiple projects, as well as identified unsuitable locations for projects. They also mentioned that watershed-based regional studies would be appropriate in northwestern British Columbia. These types of studies and EAs would avoid the chaos of multiple projects being assessed in silos.

In terms of triggers, the Panel heard that some triggers related to permitting under the Fisheries Act and transboundary effects should be brought back into the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. Other participants thought that an EA should be triggered when there are impacts to Indigenous traditional territories.

Some participants thought that the current definition of environmental effects works well and that broader issues should not be captured in project EA. Others thought that EAs should look at impacts of projects on existing local economic activities and on communities (violence, substance abuse, etc.). Impacts of malfunctions and accidents should also be included, for example the impact of potential oil spills on local fisheries. The Panel heard that EAs should look at the integrity of environmental components in the context of climate change (for example, changes in salmon runs), consider upstream and downstream impacts and subject projects to a climate test. Finally, some thought that the EA should also take environmental externalities into account.

Participants thought that projects need to be assessed for their full impacts rather than being divided into different components. Others thought that the scope of EA should be determined at the onset in consultation with Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous session – December 9, 2016

Participants expressed support for strategic and regional EAs to be used more broadly. The Panel heard concerns about how project level EAs lead to numerous deficiencies, including by encouraging proponents to maximize their profits while meeting the minimal bar to get approved. Support for regional EAs, in conjunction with sustainability goals, was linked to the principles of UNDRIP, and specifically free, prior and informed consent. Participants expressed support for starting with territorial land-use plans, then moving into regional and/or strategic EA models that would incorporate early and broad consultation, more flexible timelines, the development history of the area, and sustainability criteria.

The Panel heard that regional EAs could more effectively deal with the issue of cumulative effects, which they perceived as being a major weakness in current EA processes. Participants expressed the view that cumulative effects assessments are not adequate because they do not capture the overall impacts of many small projects and do not consider impacts of future projects. Participants stated that cumulative effects should be considered in a way that is quantitative in order to weigh risks and benefits, as well as ecosystem-based.

Conduct of Environmental Assessment

Public sessions – December 8, 2016

When it comes to determining who should be conducting EAs, the Panel heard that proponents should be separated from regulators. Consequently, participants thought that major energy projects should be assessed by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency rather than by the National Energy Board, which was described as a captured regulator that is more responsive to industry than the public. Participants also mentioned the confusion associated with multiple authorities and processes. Finally, while the Port Authority told the Panel it was satisfied with the current EA regime on federal lands since the process is adaptable, others were of the view that the Port Authority should not be conducting EAs on the land it manages as it is perceived by these participants as not being impartial.

Participants told the Panel that timelines and delays in EA are critical from a business perspective. They indicated, however, that the current implementation of timelines was neither clear, transparent, nor accountable, and it was recommended that strict guidelines be established with respect to timelines. Others told the Panel that it is difficult to adhere to set timelines when the information provided by proponents is inadequate. The Panel also heard that information requests are not always related to the determination of significance. In addition, participants mentioned that Environmental Impact Statement Guidelines are not always clear and that they should be project-specific and more detailed. Finally, some participants thought that there should be a stronger local presence of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency during the EA process.

Indigenous session – December 9, 2016

The Panel heard that Indigenous land-use planning could and should inform regional and project EA. In this regard, Indigenous governance structures, traditional knowledge, and other areas of expertise brought forth by Indigenous groups must be heard and considered by decision-makers.

Decision and Follow-up

Public sessions – December 8, 2016

In Prince Rupert, the Panel has heard a lot of concerns related to science and information used to make EA decisions. While most agreed that EA should be science-based, many were dubious of the scientific rigour applied in the current process. Participants showed little trust in studies prepared by consultants on behalf of proponents, as they saw them as lacking independence. In addition, the Panel was told that proponents have total control over the information that is shared with the government and can manipulate results of the EA by retaining some of that information in order to obtain project approval.

Participants also felt that information that is not proponent-driven does not appear to be considered on the same level. For example, the EA report on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project did not comment on alternative evidence that had been presented, and the Panel was told that the Agency did not accept some additional science contradicting the proponent’s conclusions in the case of the Pacific Northwest LNG EA. Participants linked the current situation to the reduction in government scientific capacity following federal budget cuts.

Solutions proposed to the Panel ranged from removing the proponent from the scientific process (i.e. the preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement) to requiring the proponent to defend their interpretation of science. The creation of an independent science advisory body was proposed, and it was recommended that government’s internal scientific capacity be funded adequately so appropriate departments and Agencies could oversee scientific studies. The Panel also heard that methodologies should be standardized and that scientific information should be compiled in public databases that would be available to future EA studies.

Participants told the Panel there should be no political interference or discretionary decisions as part of the EA process. They regretted that the Pacific Northwest LNG process concluded with a political decision rather than a science decision which, given Canada’s commitments, was very confusing to them. Participants also thought that the process should allow saying no to projects, and that comments and results of public participation should be reflected in EA decisions.

A concern surrounding authorizations not having an expiry date was also brought to the attention of the Panel. The Panel also heard that exploration activities for projects that may never be developed can result in significant damage to the environment.

Indigenous session – December 9, 2016

The Panel was told that Indigenous governments should have decision-making authority in EAs, through upholding and respecting Indigenous laws and governance systems. Participants indicated that Indigenous expertise and input must be meaningfully considered in EA processes. With respect to decision-making, participants thought that consent-based models of decision-making, which emphasize the process of dialogue, were the preferred option. Participants expressed the view that consent is the practical, honourable and reconciliation-based way forward for the Crown and Indigenous groups to come to the table together as governments.

Participants emphasized that Indigenous traditional knowledge should be given equal weight to western science and considered early on in the process. The Panel also heard many concerns about the current perceived conflict of interest with consultants hired by proponents to conduct studies, and the lack of peer reviewed science. Participants expressed a desire that government scientists resume a more active role in reviewing studies, as well as in collecting field data.

Public Involvement

Public sessions – December 8, 2016

On the topic of public participation, the Panel heard that while environmental awareness has increased among the public, meaningful access to EA processes remains elusive, both for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. In northwestern British Columbia, project EAs conducted in the recent past have divided communities. Participants mentioned that there have been many occasions in which local governments have been ignored in the EA process. The Panel was told that currently, people feel like they are not being heard and that their role is limited to advocacy.

The Panel heard there should be more consultation done early in the process so communities can have input in project design, including in the location of projects. According to some participants, the site selection issue with Pacific Northwest LNG could have been solved if the proponent had engaged in early consultation. Likewise, some were of the opinion that many LNG projects would be up and running if local populations had been involved at the design stage. Participants also thought that the onus should be on proponents to demonstrate to communities that their proposed project designs are the best options.

Participants told the Panel that information provided during the EA process excludes participation rather than facilitating it; information of various topics should be more easily accessible and organized. People are asked to comment on complicated things and often need assistance to understand the information provided.

The Panel heard many possible solutions for improving public participation processes including: the creation of multi-stakeholder technical working groups; holding multi-interest open houses; having technical webinars presented by the government; launching early consultations on land use; developing interpretative tables of conditions linked to EA decisions; and creating a public hub (funded by proponents) to post information related to EA.

Indigenous session – December 9, 2016

Participants expressed the need for early and ongoing engagement of Indigenous Peoples, from the project concept phase through to approval and monitoring and enforcement. The Panel heard that there is currently a bias whereby core information considered by the decision-maker is considered knowledge, but input provided by Indigenous groups is considered as “comments”. Participants stated that knowledge, and any other input by Indigenous groups, needs to be considered on par with other forms of knowledge.

The Panel was told that capacity issues were related not just to funding but also to the development of in-house expertise and the sheer volume of project referrals. Participants also spoke to the need for proponents to go out and seek social license before developing the project proposal.


Public sessions – December 8, 2016

On the theme of coordination, the Panel heard that coordination and substitution are inconsistent. Other participants viewed substitution as an inappropriate process. The Panel also heard that both provincial and federal processes should provide participant funding.

Indigenous session – December 9, 2016

Participants explained that Indigenous Peoples’ inherent jurisdiction must be respected in EA process, and that there must be a fundamental process shift so that Indigenous and Canadian processes can meet in the middle. Participants thought that engaging in a tripartite EA process, which would include federal, provincial and Indigenous levels of government, would resolve many EA issues. The Panel also heard that two assessment processes, Indigenous and Canadian, need to be entered into in order to answer the one fundamental question of EA, whether or not a project should go ahead. Participants provided their views of how Indigenous and Canadian processes could work together, and emphasized the need for joint deliberation, communication, and agreement.

Annex I

Public sessions – December 8, 2016

List of Presenters

  • Nikki Skuce, Northern Confluence Initiative
  • Pat Moss, Northwest Institute
  • Greg Knox, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust
  • Jack Smith, Prince Rupert Port Authority
  • Luanna Patterson, Janet Drysdale and Normand X, Canadian National Railway Company
  • Joy Thorkelson, UFAWA – Unifor
  • Shannon McPhail, Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition
  • Carol Brown
  • Daniel Mesec
  • Modestus Nobels, T. Buck Suzuki Environmental Foundation
  • Jill Weitz, Salmon Beyond Borders
  • William Mounce

Workshop Participants

  • There were approximately 13 participants.

Indigenous session – December 9, 2016

List of Presenters

  • Anna Usborne, on behalf of Chief Leighton, Metlakatla First Nation
  • Tara Marsden, Gitanyow First Nation
  • Stu Barnes, Skeena Fisheries Commission
  • Spencer Greening, Gitga’at First Nation
  • Mike Ridsdale, Office of the Wet’suwet’en
  • Bruce Walkinson, Gitxaala Nation
  • Rina Gemeinhardt, Kitsumkalum First Nation
  • James Witzke, Tsimshian Environmental Stewardship Authority
  • Lothar Schiese
  • Leona Peterson
  • William Micklin, Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Tribes of Alaska
  • Richard Overstall

Open Dialogue Participants

  • There were approximately 10 participants.

Submissions Received in Prince Rupert



Date Posted

View Full Submission

Submission "Environmental Review" for Prince Rupert, Dec. 8 2016

Carol Brown

January 12, 2017

Transcript - Indigenous Presentations, Prince Rupert Dec 9 2016

Prince Rupert Transcript

January 09, 2017

Transcript - Public Presentations, Prince Rupert Dec 8 2016

Prince Rupert Transcript

January 09, 2017

Follow up documents to presentation in Prince Rupert, Dec. 8 2016

Shannon Lea McPhail, Executive Director, Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition

January 09, 2017

Speaking Notes for the presentation in Prince Rupert, Dec. 8 2016

William R. Mounce

January 05, 2017

Speaking notes for Presentation “Metlakatla Oral Presentation to CEAA Review Panel, Dec. 9, 2016” in Prince Rupert, Dec. 9th 2016

Metlakatla First Nation

January 05, 2017

Submission "Technical Data Report - Acoustic Environment" for Prince Rupert, Dec 9 2016


December 15, 2016

Presentation "TESA Presentation on CEAA" for Prince Rupert, Dec 9 2016


December 15, 2016

Presentation "Kitsumkalum First Nation: An Original Tribe of the Tsimshian Nation" for Prince Rupert, Dec 9 2016

Kitsumkalum First Nation

December 15, 2016

Presentation "Gitxaała Nation: A Review of CEAA 2012" for Prince Rupert, Dec 9 2016

Gitxaała Environmental Monitoring

December 15, 2016

Submission "WET’SUWET’EN PRESENTATION" for Prince Rupert, Dec 9 2016

Mike Ridsdale of the Office of the Wet’suwet’en

December 15, 2016

Presentation "Gitga’at First Nation" for Prince Rupert, Dec 9 2016

Gitga’at First Nation

December 15, 2016

Presentation "ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT PROCESSES" for Prince Rupert, Dec 9 2016


December 15, 2016


Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs

December 15, 2016


Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs

December 15, 2016

Submission "Submission to the Expert Panel for the Review of Environmental Assessment Processes" for Prince Rupert, Dec 8 2016

Richard Overstall

December 15, 2016

Presentation "B.C. Mining Projects in Transboundary Watersheds" for Prince Rupert, Dec 8 2016

Salmon Beyond Borders

December 15, 2016

Presentation "Canadian Environmental Assessment Act Review" for Prince Rupert, Dec 8 2016


December 15, 2016

Presentation "A Federal Land Manager’s Perspective" for Prince Rupert, Dec 8 2016

Prince Rupert Port Authority

December 15, 2016

Presentation "CEAA Review" for Prince Rupert, Dec 8 2016

Northern Confluence Initiative

December 15, 2016

In: | Comments are closed | What We’ve Heard – Prince Rupert, BC

Comments are closed.

Date modified: