Government of Canada

 

Back Québec City, QC

The Expert Panel (the Panel) for the review of environmental assessment (EA) processes met in Québec City on October 24 and 25, 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 24, 2016

The Panel heard that the review of environmental assessment processes is an opportunity to design a new EA model based on social acceptability and greater importance accorded to environmental issues. This new model could become a national and international reference.

Participants indicated that Canada needs to adopt consistent national policies that define notions such as sustainability and the application of the precautionary principle and that translate commitments made internationally, in particular with regard to the fight against climate change. Several stakeholders brought up the inconsistency of government subsidies of oil and gas sectors and commitments made during the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference as an example. The adoption of such policies would help define the execution of a project’s environmental assessment, as the case may be, the refusal of certain projects before even conducting an EA.

It is in this context that the Panel heard that projects submitted for environmental assessments should be subject to a “climate test” to determine if they are compatible with Canada’s objectives in terms of the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The idea of an “economic test” was also brought up, which would evaluate the economic benefits of projects, compare them to human and environmental costs and determine if they are worth it.

OVERARCHING INDIGENOUS CONSIDERATIONS

Indigenous sessions – October 25, 2016

One participant stressed that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s (CEAA) consultation model, mainly based on the establishment of long-term relations and a professional attitude, is an example of respect of the Crown’s consultation obligations. This model should be standardized and made official through a consultation protocol. The idea was put forth to create an official federal policy on separate consultation and to formalize the consultation obligation and its terms in federal legislation.

Participants identified early consultation as a good practice, for both proponents and governments. Project proponents should consult Indigenous people on the terms of consultation related to the project. The National Energy Board’s (NEB) process was identified as starting too late the consultation, meaning that it started only when the environmental impact study was deemed acceptable. The Panel also heard that Indigenous communities do not have time to reflect strategically on the development of their traditional territories because of the number and scope of consultations in which they must participate. Also, these communities often lack the time and resources to participate significantly in the EA process because of very short deadlines. It was suggested that the response deadlines be adjusted in relation to the complexity of the projects and the number of documents to be analyzed.

The Panel also heard that recurring dedicated funding would allow the communities to increase their capacity by maintaining permanent teams. Financial assistance received for one-time projects would complement this funding. According to several participants, one-time financial assistance should be accessible as early as possible in the environmental assessment process and should allow communities to carry out their own environmental follow-up. The idea was also brought up to create technical colleges for young people to develop their traditional knowledge.

Finally, the stakeholders present insisted on the necessity for Indigenous people to be directly involved in every stage of the environmental assessment of projects, including the preparation of environmental impact study guidelines, the drafting of these studies, environmental assessment reports, decision making, monitoring programs and environmental follow-up.

PLANNING OF ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT

Public sessions – October 24, 2016

Some people brought up the lack of quality of cumulative effects assessments in environmental impact studies. Others indicated that project proponents should not be made to conduct these analyses and that they should rather be done by the government or an independent organization, preferably through strategic or regional environmental assessments.

Several stakeholders stated that strategic EAs need to be carried out, including the analysis of project alternatives, to manage land development and encourage better options, in particular in the case of port development along the Saint Lawrence River.

The inherent complexity of regional studies in the context of jurisdiction among the various levels of government was mentioned. It was suggested to the Panel that the role of the federal government in regional and/or strategic studies should be limited to areas of federal jurisdiction. Participants recommended that EAs take into account the effects of activities on water resources, including the protection of the quantity and quality of underground water, with an eye to long-term preservation. Taking into account the impact of projects on the physical and psychological health of populations was also recommended.

Indigenous sessions – October 25, 2016

The Panel heard several participants criticize the inadequate consideration of cumulative effects and highlight the need to consider the land as a whole in environmental assessments. The creation of one or more organizations dedicated to carrying out regional updates that collect data on the status of the land was suggested as a solution. These data could then be used in regional studies, strategic EAs and project EAs. One stakeholder noted that these basic data are necessary to conduct better quality EAs.

Some people said that EAs take environmental issues into consideration in too narrow a manner and that an ecosystem-based approach is required to accurately assess the environmental impact of projects, which would require the development of methods and integration of the concept in environmental impact study guidelines. Other participants also noted that assessments of project impact on the use of land and cultural aspects should be improved.

The Panel also heard that the study of pipeline projects should take into account technological risks that can have larger-scale consequences. Finally, it was noted that the use of thresholds to determine if an EA is required can be problematic, since the requirement related to EAs could be avoided by changing project parameters.

CONDUCT OF ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT

Public sessions – October 24, 2016

The Panel heard that re-establishing public trust in environmental assessment processes depends on the independence and credibility of the processes and authorities who are responsible for carrying out EAs. In this regard, some people said that we should make greater use of assessments done by review panels, or the federal government should base itself on assessments done at the provincial level by the Quebec Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement (BAPE). Other participants said that the NEB should not be a responsible authority, since this organization has neither the independence nor the credibility required.

Indigenous sessions – October 25, 2016

It was suggested that the NEB should no longer be responsible for conducting EAs and that these responsibilities should be given to the CEAA, which benefits from greater credibility.

DECISION AND FOLLOW-UP

Public sessions – October 24, 2016

Many stakeholders asked for greater transparency in decisions made in relation to EAs. In particular, the Panel heard that the definition of public interest which serves as the basis for decisions made as part of NEB EAs is not sufficiently clear. It was suggested that criteria inspired by sustainable development principles be defined and that projects be rated for each criterion when a decision is made.

Moreover, stakeholders indicated that the risks and consequences of accidents and malfunctions must be taken into account in the assessment of projects and decision making. For projects that carry a risk of significant consequences stemming from accidents and breakdowns, for example nuclear power plants and pipelines, it was suggested that decision making rely on a meticulous risk analysis and that this analysis demonstrate a small probability of occurrence for approved projects. Stakeholders believed that, currently, the NEB process did not seem sufficiently thorough.

PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT

Public sessions – October 24, 2016

Several participants stressed the importance of the financial assistance that is provided to facilitate participation in the EA process and that it should be maintained or even increased to support the review of complex EA documents. Opportunities to participate early in the process, even before the start of the EA, were identified as good practices, since they allow the public to quickly understand the proposed projects and related issues and thus encourage greater participation in the later EA stages.

However, the short deadlines, often 30 days, to provide comments were identified as an obstacle to the public’s significant contribution to EAs.

Some stakeholders highlighted the cumbersome nature of the NEB EA process with regard to the public’s participation, for example, the procedure allowing the public to participate or the difficulty of getting access to documentation that is understandable, consistent, in lay terms and in French. The principle of “intelligibility of the environmental assessment” was suggested to encourage projects’ social acceptability. In other words, anyone who wants it should have access to relevant information, in lay terms, on the main project issues.

COORDINATION

Public sessions – October 24, 2016

Many people condemned the lack of coordination of EA processes between the various levels of government. They believe that we need to recognize jurisdiction and that the processes should be complementary and consistent and should avoid duplication. Several solutions were suggested to the Panel, including the establishment of joint review panels (a solution that has worked well in the past), using the substitution mechanism outlined in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012) or the implementation of formal cooperation agreements. A lack of coordination was identified with regard to species of special concern and follow-up standards concerning effluent discharge.

Indigenous sessions – October 25, 2016

Some stakeholders said that the two EA processes (federal and provincial) need to remain. It was suggested that the federal government be responsible for ensuring that the issues related to Indigenous people be sufficiently considered. However, it was also said that greater process coordination, in particular with regard to consultation activities, could lead to better contribution in EAs by Indigenous people.

Appendix I

Public sessions – October 24, 2016

List of presenters

  • Daniel Guay, Accès Saint-Laurent Beauport.
  • Serge Bastien, Société de l'eau souterraine de l'Abitibi-Témiscamingue
  • Christian Simard, Nature Québec
  • Marc Ferland et Pierre Marchildon, Comité vigilance hydrocarbures de la Municipalité régionale de comté de Lotbinière
  • Yves Prévost
  • Carole Dupuis
  • Martin Larose, WSP

Participants in the public workshop

  • There were 16 participants.

Indigenous sessions – October 25, 2016

List of presenters

  • Vincent Gérardin, First Nations of Pekuakamiulnuatsh, Essipit and Nutashkuan
  • Jean Dumont, Native Alliance of Quebec

Participants in the open discussion

  • The open discussion took place during the day with participants present at a separate session organized by the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Sustainable Development Institute (FNQLSDI). There were approximately 25 participants. The Panel would like to thank FNQLSDI for its collaboration in organizing this session.

Submissions Received in Quebec

Title

Author

Date Posted

View Full Submission

Submission "Proposition d'approche à l'analyse du projet d'extension du Port de Québec" for Quebec City, Oct 24 2016

Association des Citoyens de Beauport Inc.

January 09, 2017

Suivi à la présentation donnée à Québec le 24 oct. 2016

Nature Québec

January 04, 2017

Présentation “PRÉSENTATION AU COMITÉ D’EXPERTS – EXAMEN DES PROCESSUS D’ÉVALUATION ENVIRONNEMENTALE” pour Québec, le 24 oct. 2016

WSP Canada

January 04, 2017

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