Cumulative effects

The term “cumulative effects” generally refers to the combined effects from past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future activities and natural processes. Specific definitions vary among different parties and under different legislation and policies, but the term generally refers to effects that may be individually minor, but collectively significant. Effects can be adverse (e.g., decreased water quality in a regional river) or positive (e.g., socioeconomic benefits like jobs and business for a local community).

In a world of increasing development pressures and changing natural processes, understanding, considering, and supporting the management of cumulative effects is important for the environment, socio-economic conditions, and human health.

The Government of Canada recognizes that cumulative effects is an important issue that requires collaboration and partnerships. The federal government, provinces, territories, Indigenous peoples, stakeholders, industry, and the public all have information and perspectives to contribute towards understanding, considering and managing cumulative effects.

This interim message is the first deliverable arising from an overarching plan to explain and provide additional detail on how the Government of Canada understands, considers, and supports the management of cumulative effects. At this time, the scope of this message includes activities undergoing federal impact and environmental assessment processes. Individual departments and agencies of the Government of Canada may choose to develop further messaging to clarify how this interim message may be applied to individual programs.

Government of Canada’s interim messaging on cumulative effects

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