Help strengthen environmental assessments in Canada
The Expert Panel reviewing Canada’s environmental assessment (EA) processes has released its final report – and it calls for a major shift in decision-making that will help protect Canadians and the environment.
We’re one step closer establishing a new law and stronger safeguards for land, air, water and public health. Will you take action again to help make it happen?
After engaging with people across the country, the Panel laid out a number of recommendations to guide assessments for proposed projects like mines, pipelines and dams. These recommendations include ensuring that decisions are based on sustainability, collaboration with Indigenous peoples, meaningful public participation, and mechanisms for achieving Canada’s climate goals.
The Minister of Environment and Climate Change is now collecting input from Canadians about the Panel’s report – you can share your views online at www.letstalkea.ca until May 5th, 2017.
The online #LetsTalkEA portal asks for comments on the main sections of the Panel’s report. Help us ensure the Panel’s report is the low, not the high water mark for Canada’s most important environmental decision-making law.
If you’re short on time, here are some key areas that need your support and tips for what to say:
- Public participation: The Panel recommended removing all barriers to participation, including the test currently used by the National Energy Board to limit participation to only those people it deems are “directly affected” by projects like pipelines. Many commenters have already said this recommendation should be ignored, and that only some people should be allowed to have a say. Go to section 2.4 of the “Developing the Vision” part of the #LetsTalkEA website and tell the government why all Canadians should be able to have a say in environmental decisions that concern them.
- Indigenous considerations: The panel made a number of recommendations on upholding Indigenous rights and authority, including that their consent must be obtained for a project to proceed. But some commenters are opposing this recommendation, saying it would be bad for business. Go to section 2.3 of the “Developing the Vision” part of the website to show your support for Indigenous peoples, and the importance of upholding Canada’s obligations towards them.
- What gets assessed: Currently, the vast majority of projects do not receive an environmental assessment. The Panel has recommended ways for more projects to get assessed, but it does not go far enough – only a few hundred out of thousands of federally-regulated activities would be assessed for their potential implications on sustainability. Tell the government it needs to ensure all projects and activities are good for Canada’s environment and communities – go to section 2.1 and show your support for enacting triggers to ensure all projects are assessed before they can receive a federal permit.
- Right of appeal: Under our current law, it is very difficult to successfully challenge an environmental assessment through the courts. The Panel has recommended that appeals should go to Cabinet, which would not be obliged to provide reasons for its decision and could make final decisions based on political reasons, not fact or law. There should be a right of appeal for both interim and final decisions, and an independent tribunal should be established to hear those appeals, in order to ensure justice and accountability. Go to section 3.1 and ask the government for a right of appeal and an independent tribunal to hear those appeals.
- Early planning stage: In order to facilitate meaningful public participation, Indigenous engagement and co-governance, and cooperation with provinces, the Panel has recommended an early planning stage for all assessments. This stage would involve appointing teams to conduct the assessment studies, and identifying the criteria that should guide the process and decision – and it would allow the public and Indigenous peoples to participate in planning assessments and engagement processes. We think the early planning stage is essential, and encourage you to show your support for it in section 3.2.
These are just some of the many recommendations in the Panel’s report. For an overview of these and other key recommendations, see our recent blog on the report.
This is a crucial time for improving environmental decision-making in Canada. We hope you’ll stay involved in the process and urge the federal government to enact a stronger, fairer environmental assessment law. Canadians have sent a clear message that our environmental assessment processes are broken – and this is our chance to get it right.