Government of Canada Releases Interim Guidance on the Impact Assessment Act
October 26, 2023 – Ottawa – Government of Canada
Attracting investment and supporting major job-creating projects requires regulatory certainty from all levels of government.
Following the recent opinion by the Supreme Court of Canada on the Impact Assessment Act (IAA), the Government of Canada is setting a clear path forward for impact assessments in Canada to provide clarity for businesses, provinces, Indigenous groups and stakeholders involved in the development of major projects.
Today, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault, announced Government of Canada guidance on the interim administration of the Impact Assessment Act to ensure that projects currently in the assessment process have an orderly and clear path forward.
As part of this guidance:
- The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada will assess all projects currently under assessment and provide an opinion on whether they impact areas of federal jurisdiction;
- Proponents are invited to continue information sharing to advance their assessments;
- Consultation will continue with Indigenous Peoples through existing assessment processes, as they relate to a clear area of federal jurisdictional responsibility;
- The Minister’s discretionary authorities to designate projects will be paused.
- Consideration of any new designation requests will only resume, as appropriate, once amended legislation is in force;
- The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada remains prepared to provide an opinion on whether a full impact assessment is warranted, and to invite proponents to collaborate on an assessment; and
- The three regional assessments underway, the Ring of Fire in Ontario and offshore wind in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, will continue, as these seek only to understand impacts and do not involve decision-making on specific projects.
This guidance provides certainty to ongoing processes while the Government prepares for the introduction of targeted and meaningful amendments to the IAA that align with the opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada.
The Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the right of the Government of Canada to put in place impact assessment legislation, protect Indigenous Peoples rights, and collaborate with the provinces on environmental protection. Respecting guidance from the Supreme Court of Canada, the Government will move quickly to introduce important amendments, including incorporating the Court’s call for greater collaboration between the federal and provincial governments.
The Government of Canada and the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada will continue to work collaboratively with the provinces, Indigenous partners, stakeholders and the public as the amendments to the Impact Assessment Act proceed. Strong collaboration is and will remain at the heart of conducting federal assessments and protecting the environment.
“The Supreme Court of Canada’s opinion on impact assessment means we now have clarity to better align the IAA to areas of federal jurisdiction while continuing to protect the environment. The Government of Canada is doing its part and looks to the provincial governments to do theirs, so we can work together to protect the environment and advance sustainable development in Canada in the spirit of cooperative federalism.”
- The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Environment and Climate Change
“The Impact Assessment Act established a set of better rules to ensure that Indigenous perspectives are included from the beginning of the review process, to ensure that important environmental and climate considerations are heard and addressed, and to provide clear timelines to investors and businesses to get good projects built fast. As we work to make targeted amendments to the IAA to bring it in line with the Supreme Court of Canada’s opinion, today’s interim guidance aims to provide clarity to investors and businesses in the immediate term. In a global competition for investment, Canada’s project review process is an important strategic advantage. As we move forward, we will ensure this remains the case.”
- The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Energy and Natural Resources
Currently, there are 23 projects in the federal impact assessment process under the Impact Assessment Act and another 20 projects continue to be reviewed under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012, the former legislation.
Of the 23 projects, 10 are in the planning phase, 10 are in the impact statement phase of the assessment process and three are substituted to the Government of British Columbia.
- The Government of Canada’s Statement on the Interim Administration of the Impact Assessment Act Pending Legislative Amendments
- Statement by Ministers Guilbeault and Virani on the Supreme Court of Canada’s opinion on the constitutionality of the Impact Assessment Act
- Supreme Court of Canada Opinion
- Canadian Impact Assessment Registry
Office of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Impact Assessment Agency of Canada
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