Glossary of terms

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for the Impact Assessment of Designated Projects under the Impact Assessment Act

Last updated: July 2021

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The Glossary of Terms for the impact assessment of designated projects under the Impact Assessment Act (the Act) is for information purposes only. It is not a substitute for the Act or any of its regulations. In the event of any inconsistency between this guide and the Act or regulations, the Act or regulations would prevail.

For the most up-to-date versions of the Act and regulations, please consult the Department of Justice website.


This document may be reviewed and updated periodically by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (the Agency).

Purpose of the Glossary

This glossary was prepared by the Agency to assist practitioners in implementing the Act. It also supports Agency training and guidance materials. It defines or explains terms that are commonly used in relation to impact assessments under the Act.

Here is some useful information to help you get the most out of it:

Key acronyms and short forms

Term Definition
Act / IAA

Impact Assessment Act


Impact Assessment Agency of Canada

CEAA 2012

Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012


Canada Energy Regulator


Canadian Energy Regulator Act


Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission


Fisheries and Oceans Canada


Environment and Climate Change Canada


federal authority


Gender-based Analysis Plus


greenhouse gas


Indigenous Engagement and Partnership Plan


Minister of Environment and Climate Change


National Energy Board


National Energy Board Act


Nuclear Safety and Control Act


Canadian Impact Assessment Registry


Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines


valued component

Index of key terms

Term Definition
alternative means of carrying out a designated project

The various technically and economically feasible ways, including through the use of best available technologies, which would allow a designated project and its physical activities to be carried out. Examples include consideration of alternative locations, development and/or implementation methods, routes, designs, technologies, and mitigation measures.

French translation: autres moyens / solutions de rechange à la réalisation d'un projet désigné

alternatives to the project

The functionally different ways to meet the need for the project and achieve its purpose that are technically and economically feasible.

For example, in the case of an entity that is able to generate electricity from multiple sources, "alternatives to" a hydro-electric dam that is being proposed to meet the future energy demand of a region, could include other functionally different ways to generate the electricity (i.e. wind, solar, nuclear, etc.) or meeting the future demand through means of improving the conservation and efficiency of the current energy supply.

French translation: solutions de rechange


Persons, as designated by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, with specific scientific or other expertise that is needed to support enforcement officers in carrying out their duties.

French translation: analystes

Best available technology (BAT)

The application of the most effective technology or technique for mitigating adverse effects on people and the environment that is economically feasible to implement.

French translation: meilleures technologies disponibles (MTD)

Canadian Impact Assessment Registry

The Canadian Impact Assessment Registry (the Registry) is a website where the Agency stores records, including documents and comments, from federal impact assessments. The Agency and other organizations responsible to complete federal assessments are required by the Impact Assessment Act to ensure that records of assessments are posted and maintained on the Registry so that the public can access them.

French translation: Registre canadien d'évaluation d'impact

commitments in respect of climate change

Commitments in respect of climate change that are set out in legally binding and non­binding domestic and international instruments. These instruments include the various legislation, regulations, policies, targets, plans and frameworks to which Canada is a party.

French translation: engagements en matière de changements climatiques


The requirements included in a Decision Statement issued by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change with which the proponent of the designated project must comply. These include mitigation measures and follow-up program requirements.

French translation: conditions

Consultation Report

Document prepared by the Agency that includes advice to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change regarding the adequacy of consultations to fulfill the Crown's duty to consult and accommodate. The Agency will consult with Indigenous groups on the Consultation Report and provide opportunity for groups to draft input to sections.

French translation: rapport de consulatation

Cooperation Plan

Document describing how the Agency will work with other jurisdictions throughout the impact assessment process to harmonize timelines and consultation and engagement activities, where possible. This plan aims to satisfy the requirements and objectives of the Impact Assessment Act and the participating provincial, territorial and/or Indigenous jurisdictions to reduce duplication, increase efficiency and certainty, and draw on the best available expertise.

French translation: plan de collaboration

Decision Statement

Document issued by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change that informs the proponent of the public interest determination.

French translation: déclaration de décision

designated project

'Designated project' is defined in section 2 of the Impact Assessment Act. In general, it includes one or more physical activities that:

  1. are carried out in Canada or on federal lands; and
  2. are designated by the Project List or by a ministerial order.

It also includes any physical activity that is incidental to those physical activities.

French translation: projet désignén

Detailed Project Description

Document prepared by the proponent containing updated information prescribed by regulations about the designated project and information about the possible environmental, social, health and economic effects of the project.

French translation: description détaillée du projet

direct or incidental effects

Effects that are directly linked or necessarily incidental to a federal authority's exercise of a power or performance of a duty or function that would permit the carrying out, in whole or in part, of a physical activity or designated project, or to a federal authority's provision of financial assistance to a person for the purpose of enabling that activity or project to be carried out, in whole or in part.

French translation: effets directs ou accessoires


Unless the context requires otherwise, refers to changes to the environment or to health, social or economic conditions and the positive and negative consequences of these changes.

French translation: effets

effects within federal jurisdiction

Effects within federal jurisdiction are defined in section 2 of the Impact Assessment Act. In general, they are effects related to a physical activity or a designated project that change:

  1. environmental components within the legislative authority of Parliament such as fish, other aquatic species or migratory birds;
  2. the environment on federal lands, in another province or outside Canada;
  3. the environment in a way that impacts Indigenous peoples of Canada through impacts to physical and cultural heritage, current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes, or any structure, site or thing that is of historical, archaeological, paleontological or architectural significance;
  4. the health, social or economic conditions of the Indigenous peoples of Canada; and
  5. a health, social or economic matter that is within the legislative authority of Parliament.

French translation: effets relevant d'un domaine de compétence fédérale

enforcement officers

Persons, as designated by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, responsible for verifying compliance and issuing orders to correct non-compliance.

French translation: agents d'application de la loi

environment The components of the Earth, and includes:
  1. land, water and air, including all layers of the atmosphere;
  2. all organic and inorganic matter and living organisms; and
  3. the interacting natural systems that include components referred to in paragraph (a) and (b).

French translation: environnement

environmental obligations

Obligations applicable to the Government of Canada in domestic and international law in relation to the protection of the natural "environment". Environmental obligations are set out domestically in federal legislation and regulations (with which compliance is a legal requirement). In international law, legally binding international instruments (e.g., conventions) to which Canada is a party can create environmental obligations.

French translation: obligations environnementales

External Technical Review

Tool that can be used by the Agency or a review panel as required to complement the reviews conducted by expert federal departments. It allows difficult science issues related to a designated project to be examined by independent experts and helps inform complex scientific elements of the assessment.

French translation: examen technique externe

Federal Authorities

Federal departments or agencies that are in possession of specialist or expert information or knowledge with respect to a project, upon request, have the obligation of:

  • making information available to the Agency, review panel or body conducting the impact assessment; and
  • engaging with the proponent.

Their expertise may be used at any stage of the impact assessment process.

French translation: autorités fédérales

follow-up program

Program for verifying the accuracy of the impact assessment of a designated project and determining the effectiveness of any mitigation measures.

French translation: programme de suivi

Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+)

An analytical framework that guides the assessment of how designated projects may have different positive and negative impacts on diverse groups of people or communities. The "plus" in GBA+ acknowledges the multiple identity factors that intersect with sex and gender to affect how people may experience projects differently and be differently impacted by projects.

French translation: analyse comparative entre les sexes plus (ACS+)

Geographic Information System (GIS)

GIS means a computer system made for recording and displaying positions on the earth's surface and showing data in many different ways on maps. It is useful to help in analyzing groups of data and in finding correlations or patterns.

French translation: Système d'information géographique

Governor in Council

The Governor General of Canada acting by and with the advice and consent of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada (i.e., Cabinet).

French translation: gouverneur en conseil

Governor in Council's determination

62 If the matter is referred to the Governor in Council, the Governor in Council must determine whether the adverse effects within federal jurisdiction — and the adverse direct or incidental effects — that are indicated in the report are in the public interest.

French translation: décision du gouverneur en conseil

impact assessment

An assessment of the effects of a designated project that is conducted in accordance with the Impact Assessment Act.

French translation: évaluation d'impact

impact assessment practitioner

The term 'impact assessment practitioner' is used to refer to anyone working on an impact assessment, including, but not limited to, the assessment of impacts on the rights of Indigenous peoples. It can include federal government officials, provincial government officials, Indigenous community representatives, proponents, consultants, review panel members, regional assessment committee members, or others working on the assessment.

French translation: praticien de l'évaluation d'impact

Impact Assessment Report

Document produced by the Agency summarizing the impact assessment process that takes into consideration the information and analysis by the proponent and associated perspectives including of expert federal departments, Indigenous groups, the public and provincial, territorial, or Indigenous jurisdictions. The Impact Assessment Report must provide sufficient information to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change or Cabinet to allow them to make the public interest decision.

French translation: rapport de l'évaluation d'impact

impact pathway

A representation, often diagrammatic, of a linked set of cause-and-effect relationships between factors in the analysis, such as effects, actions, outputs, and/or outcomes.

French translation: séquence d'impact

Impact Statement

Detailed technical document prepared by the proponent as per the requirements set out in the Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines.

French translation: étude d'impact

Indigenous group

A generic term that may include groups that are not rights-holders. The Impact Assessment Act requires the Agency to consult any potentially affected group (s. 12) and consider impacts on any Indigenous groups (s. 22 (c)).

French translation: groupe autochtone

Indigenous governing body

The term 'Indigenous governing body' is applied by the Impact Assessment Act to refer to a rights-holding group, community, or people. It is often referred to as an Indigenous community.

French translation: corps dirigeant autochtone

Indigenous Engagement and Partnership Plan

Document outlining how Indigenous groups may wish to participate in the impact assessment process, including, where available, information on proponent-led engagement activities. This document will be developed in collaboration with Indigenous groups.

French translation: plan de mobilisation et de parternariat avec les Autochtones

Indigenous Jurisdiction

A term applied to any Indigenous group that may have powers, under federal or provincial law, in relation to the assessment of environmental effects for a given designated project.

French translation: instances autochtones

Indigenous knowledge

Although there are many different definitions of Indigenous knowledge by various Indigenous communities and organizations and in academic or international literature, there is no one universally accepted definition.

For the purposes of impact assessment, generally, Indigenous knowledge is considered as a body of knowledge built up by a group of Indigenous peoples through generations of living in close contact with the land. While the term 'traditional knowledge' is often used, the Impact Assessment Act uses the term 'Indigenous knowledge' in order to recognize that the knowledge system evolves and is not set in the past, as the word 'traditional' may imply.

French translation: savoir autochtone

Indigenous peoples

The term 'Indigenous peoples' has the same meaning as "aboriginal peoples of Canada" which include First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples as defined in section 35(2) of the Constitution Act, 1982.

French translation: peuples autochtone

Indigenous-led assessment

Any assessment of a designated project led by an Indigenous community. This includes those done under federal or provincial law, or under the community's own laws.

French translation: évaluation menée par une collectivité autochtone

Initial Project Description

Description of the proposed project provided by the proponent that includes the prescribed information set out in the Information and Management of Time Limits Regulations, about the proposed project and identifies the location, local communities and Indigenous groups who may be affected.

French translation: description initiale du projet

integrated impact assessment

Integrated assessments are assessments of designated projects that integrate the legislative requirements of both the Impact Assessment Act and the legislative requirements of the respective lifecycle regulator. The Minister of Environment and Climate Change must automatically refer the integrated assessment to a review panel if the designated project includes physical activities that are regulated under the:

  • Nuclear Safety and Control Act;
  • Canadian Energy Regulator Act;
  • Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Atlantic Accord Implementation Act; and
  • Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act

French translation: évaluations d'impact intégrées

integrated review panel

When an impact assessment is required for a designated project regulated by a lifecycle regulator, such as under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act or the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change must refer the assessment to an integrated review panel. The impact assessment will integrate the requirements of those Acts into the process to the greatest extent possible.

French translation: commission d'examen intégré

Joint Review Panel Agreement

Establishes the mandate and authority of the joint review panel, its composition and the procedures and timelines for the review process. An agreement is negotiated between the Agency and approved by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and the provincial, territorial, or Indigenous jurisdiction for each joint review panel, outlining the review process and the Terms of Reference for the joint review panel.

French translation: entente relative à la commission d'examen conjoint

lifecycle regulator

Lifecycle regulators have roles throughout the process, when applicable. They collaborate with the Agency through an integrated assessment process that meets the Impact Assessment Act (the IAA) and their own regulatory requirements.

Under the Impact Assessment Act, lifecycle regulators include, but are not limited to, the Canada Energy Regulator (CER), the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), and the Offshore Petroleum Boards. The Agency will work collaboratively with the lifecycle regulators on designated projects that are also regulated under the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation Act, and the Canada–Newfoundland and Labrador Atlantic Accord Implementation Act. The Agency will draw upon their expert knowledge and ensure that safety, licensing requirements, international obligations, and other key regulatory factors are considered as part of a single, integrated assessment, as appropriate.

French translation: organisme de réglementation dy cycle de vie

Minister's decision

‘Minister’s decision’ is defined in section 60(1) of the Impact Assessment Act:

After taking into account the report with respect to the impact assessment of a designated project that is submitted to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (the Minister), the Minister must:

  1. determine whether the adverse effects within federal jurisdiction — and the adverse direct or incidental effects — that are indicated in the report are in the public interest; or
  2. refer to the Governor in Council the matter of whether the effects referred to in paragraph (a) are in the public interest.

French translation: décision du ministre

mitigation measures

Measures to eliminate, reduce, control or offset the adverse effects of a project or designated project, and includes restitution for any damage caused by those effects through replacement, restoration, compensation or any other means.

French translation: mesures d'atténuation

monitoring committee

A committee that may be established by the Agency for matters related to the implementation of follow-up programs and adaptive management plans, and to provide opportunities for Indigenous people and the public to participate in post-decision making activities such as monitoring.

French translation: comité de surveillance


Any actions by the proponent that contradict or violate the conditions of the Decision Statement or any provisions in the Impact Assessment Act.

French translation: non-conformité

Notice of Commencement

Notice issued by the Agency before the end of the 180-day Planning phase that sets out the start of the Impact Statement phase and includes the Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines outlining the information and studies necessary to conduct the impact assessment.

French translation: avis du début de l’évaluation d’impact

Permitting Plan

Document outlining the anticipated permits, licenses and authorizations (regulatory instruments) that may be required for a project. The following types of regulatory instruments will be included in the plan: federal, including those under the authority of a lifecycle regulator; any jurisdiction that will undertake a joint review panel impact assessment process with the Agency under the Impact Assessment Act; another jurisdiction that may have responsibilities for an assessment with the agreement of the Agency and that jurisdiction; and any other permits, licences and authorizations that the Agency determines are appropriate to include.

French translation: plan de délivrance de permis


A person or entity – federal authority, government or body – that proposes the carrying out of, or carries out, a designated project.

French translation: promoteur

Project List

The Physical Activities Regulations (also known as the Project List) identifies types of projects that may require an impact assessment under the Impact Assessment Act. When the physical activity associated with the carrying out of a proponent's project is described in the Project List, the proponent must provide the Agency with an Initial Project Description.

French translation: Liste des projets

public hearing

Provides an opportunity for the review panel to obtain the information required to complete its assessment and for Indigenous groups, the public and other participants to participate in the impact assessment by presenting information and testing the information on the record.

French translation: audience publique

Public Participation Plan

Document outlining how the public will be engaged throughout the impact assessment process and preferred engagement tools and strategies.

French translation: plan de participation du public

Response to the Summary of Issues

Document prepared by the proponent outlining how it plans to address the issues described in the Summary of Issues.

French translation: réponse au sommaire des questions

review panel

A review panel is a group of independent experts appointed by the Agency to conduct an impact assessment. The members are selected on the basis of their knowledge, knowledge of Indigenous issues, experience and expertise, and must be free from bias or conflict of interest relative to the project. The review panel is responsible for conducting the impact assessment, which includes collecting information, holding a public hearing and preparing the Impact Assessment Report.

French translation: commission d'examen

review panel's Impact Assessment Report

Report prepared by the review panel that identifies the effects that are likely to be caused by the designated project, the adverse effects within federal jurisdiction, the extent to which these effects are significant, how Indigenous knowledge was considered in the assessment, a summary of comments and the review panel's rationale, conclusions and recommendations. In the case of integrated review panels, the report will include recommendations on potential conditions and will address the requirements of both the Impact Assessment Act and the relevant provisions of the legislation of the lifecycle regulator.

French translation: rapport de la commission d'examen

rights of Indigenous peoples

"Rights of Indigenous peoples" and "rights" refer to the rights recognized in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, which include Aboriginal and treaty rights. Under the Impact Assessment Act the Government of Canada, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Agency and federal authorities, in administration of this Act, must exercise their powers in a manner that respects the Government's commitments with respect to the rights of the Indigenous peoples of Canada (s. 6(2)).

French translation: droits des peuples autochtones


Potential members of a review panel may be selected from a roster of candidates established by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (the Minister). In the case of integrated review panels, the Minister will establish three rosters, one that identifies potential candidates, one of members of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and one of Commissioners from the Canadian Energy Regulator. Candidates must have relevant knowledge and expertise and must be free from a conflict of interest.

French translation: liste de personnes


Process that allows the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (the Minister) to replace the conduct of a federal assessment with that of another jurisdiction, if conditions set out in the Impact Assessment Act are met and the Minister is of the opinion that the process of the other jurisdiction would be an appropriate substitute for the federal process.

French translation: substitution

Summary of Issues

Document prepared by the Agency to summarize the issues raised through the initial engagement processes in the Planning phase. This document provides the proponent with an understanding of issues and allows participants to see how their comments and concerns have been characterized.

French translation: sommaire des questions


The ability to protect the environment, contribute to the social and economic well-being of the people of Canada and preserve their health in a manner that benefits present and future generations.

French translation: durabilité

Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines

Document prepared by the Agency that provides direction and requirements for the proponent in preparing an Impact Statement. The Guidelines detail all information and studies that the Agency and federal authorities will require to conduct the impact assessment.

French translation: Lignes directrices individualisées relatives à l'étude d'impact

Terms of Reference

Establishes the composition and authority of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (the Minister) and review panel's expectations for the impact assessment by review panel. It sets procedures and the boundaries of the review, including the time limit for the review panel to submit its report to the Minister. The objectives of Public Participation Plan issued by the Agency at the end of the Planning phase will be reflected in the review panel's Terms of Reference. The Terms of Reference must be established no later than 45 days from the posting of the Notice of Determination that the Impact Statement contains all the required information and studies.

French translation: mandat

valued component

Environmental, health, social, economic or additional elements or conditions of the natural and human environment that may be impacted by a proposed project and are of concern or value to the public, Indigenous peoples, federal authorities and interested parties. Valued components may be identified as having scientific, biological, social, health, cultural, traditional, economic, historical, archaeological and/or aesthetic importance.

French translation: composantes valorisées

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