Better Rules to Protect Canada’s Environment and Grow the Economy: Benefits for Canadians

Backgrounder

The Government of Canada has put in place better rules to protect the country’s environment, fish and waterways, respect Indigenous rights and rebuild public trust in how decisions about resource development are made. With these better rules, Canadians, companies, and investors can be confident that good projects will be built in a way that protects the environment while creating jobs and growing the economy.

Assessing what matters to Canadians

Developing resources while protecting the environment requires taking a ‘big-picture’ look at a project's potential impacts.

Project reviews will focus on sustainability, considering environmental, economic, social, and health impacts over the long-term of proposed projects. The Government of Canada will also conduct gender-based analyses.

Project reviews will consider how projects are consistent with Canada’s environmental obligations and climate change commitments, including the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

The Government of Canada is conducting a Strategic Assessment for Climate Change to provide guidance on how to consider greenhouse gas emissions in individual project reviews.

Regulatory certainty and predictability for companies

The new impact assessment system will be more efficient and predictable, giving companies the clarity they need at the outset.

Companies with assessments already underway will have the option to “opt-in” to the new system and no project would have to go back to the starting line.

Project reviews will be rigorously managed to ensure that they are more timely. Companies will know what is required from them at the outset, including what is required for Indigenous engagement.

A revised Project List based on clear criteria will identify which types of projects would require a review, offering greater clarity about how the new rules apply.

Public participation, science, and transparency

We will ensure that Canadians’ views are heard from the start and provide participant funding programs for Indigenous peoples and the public. Legislated timelines will also be provided to ensure meaningful participation is balanced with timely assessments.

Project decisions will be guided by science, Indigenous knowledge and other sources of evidence. Project reviews will reflect our strong commitment to science under the Impact Assessment Act in a way that adheres to the principles of scientific integrity, honesty, objectivity, thoroughness, and accuracy. Science and evidence provided by companies will be rigorously reviewed by federal scientists.

The Government will increase online access to science and evidence, including data on follow-up monitoring, compliance, and enforcement. Easy to understand summaries of decisions will be publicly available.

A single Agency to conduct impact assessments

To ensure the review process is efficient and consistent, a single Agency will lead federal project reviews and coordinate consultations with Indigenous peoples.

The new Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, formerly the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, will work collaboratively with – and draw expertise from - life-cycle regulators, such as the new Canadian Energy Regulator (formerly the National Energy Board), the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and the offshore boards.

The Agency will coordinate with provinces and territories to advance its commitment to one project, one review.

A new Canadian Energy Regulator

A modern energy regulator has an essential role to play in ensuring access to safe, affordable, and reliable energy and guiding Canada's transition to a low-carbon economy.

The National Energy Board will be replaced with a new, independent, energy lifecycle regulator called the Canadian Energy Regulator (CER).

The new CER will operate with a modern and effective governance structure, support inclusive public engagement and greater Indigenous participation, and introduce strengthened safety and environmental protection measures.

This will ensure that good projects go ahead with timely decisions that reflect common values and shared benefits.

The CER will retain responsibility for the assessment of non-designated projects.

Partnering with Indigenous peoples

Under the legislation, the Government of Canada is committed to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), through commitments to working in partnership with Indigenous peoples throughout impact assessments.

There will be early and regular engagement with Indigenous peoples based on recognition of Indigenous rights and interests from the start. The decision to refer a designated project to a review panel will have to consider the impact on Indigenous rights.

The Government will work in partnership with Indigenous peoples for project reviews. Key committees under the Impact Assessment Act and Canadian Energy Regulator Act will be distinction-based and include members who represent the interests of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples.

Consideration of Indigenous knowledge will now be mandatory for certain processes and decisions. We will protect the confidentiality of Indigenous knowledge (e.g. sacred site locations) and respect Indigenous laws and protocols for its use. Impact assessment reports will clearly indicate how Indigenous knowledge was taken into account and used.

Protecting Canada’s navigable waters

To protect the public right of navigation, the Government has brought forward the Canadian Navigable Waters Act.

New navigation protections will apply to all of Canada's navigable waters — covering its vast network of rivers, lakes, and canals. New modern safeguards will create greater transparency, and give local communities a say in projects that could affect their navigation. This includes a greater level of oversight for the navigable waterways that are most important to Canadians and to Indigenous peoples, including eligible heritage and wild and free-flowing rivers.


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