Analyzing Health, Social and Economic Effects under the Impact Assessment Act

This document is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to fetter decision-makers. It is not intended to suggest that the Government can regulate matters of provincial jurisdiction. It is not a substitute for the Impact Assessment Act (the Act) or its regulations. In the event of an inconsistency between this document and the Act or its regulations, the Act and its regulations would prevail. For the most up-to-date versions of the Act and regulations, please consult the Department of Justice website.


1. Introduction

This guidance is for proponents, consultants, and others participating in an impact assessment. The guidance applies to designated projectsFootnote 1 under the Impact Assessment Act (the Act). It does not apply to non-designated projects.

Here, you will find information that helps you assess health, social and economic effects for an impact assessment. This page covers legislative requirements, expected scope, methodologies and examples related to the abovementioned effects.

The Act requires the following:

  1. The consideration of health, social and economic effects that may arise from a designated project.
  2. Positive effects, as well as adverse effects, must be considered.
  3. Health, social and economic effects must be considered for all populations.

This document provides the following tools to help you meet these assessment requirements: basic concepts, definitions, best practices, and examples of integrated assessments that examine health, social and economic effects. This page also references existing technical guidance and best practice documents to help you learn more.

2. Guidance and tools

This guidance document forms part of the larger Practitioner's Guide to Federal Impact Assessments under the Impact Assessment Act (the Practitioner's Guide), which includes in-depth guidance on several aspects of the impact assessment process. This guidance should be used alongside those documents. These include: 

3. Key considerations: Effects assessment under the Impact Assessment Act

3.1 Health, social and economic effects: Considerations at each phase

Table 1 (below) provides an overview of how a designated project's health, social and economic effects are considered in the impact assessment system.Footnote 2

Table 1: Consideration of Health, Social and Economic Effects throughout Impact Assessment
Phase Description
Planning phase
  • The proponent prepares an Initial Project Description. It briefly describes changes that may occur in Canada, as a result of the carrying out of the project, to the health, social or economic conditions of Indigenous peoples of Canada. This description is based on publicly available information or information from engagement with Indigenous peoples.
  • The Agency prepares a Summary of Issues. For this, the Agency considers the initial project description, and comments from Indigenous groups and other participants. The summary would include any issues related to the potential health, social and economic effects that have been identified. Any information provided by federal authorities is also considered.
  • The proponent responds to the summary of issues in its notice. The notice addresses potential health, social and economic effects identified. It also provides early direction on how the proponent plans to consider these effects. The proponent then prepares a Detailed Project Description.
  • If an IA is required, the Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines identifies the health, social and economic effects that require consideration in the impact assessment. It also identifies any methods or tools that the proponent must use when considering these effects. This document is prepared by the Agency (and a lifecycle regulator, where applicable).
Impact Statement phase
  • The proponent prepares an Impact Statement based on the Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines. It includes an analysis of the potential health, social, and economic effects of the designated project.

Impact Assessment phase


  • Federal authorities with expertise in the potential health, social and economic effects identified provide the Agency with information and advice to support the impact assessment. This information might include potential mitigation measures.
  • Engagement with the public and Indigenous groups on the assessment is ongoing.
  • The Impact Assessment Report, prepared by the Agency or a review panel, sets out the health, social and economic effects that are likely to be caused by the project. The report also provides information on how these effects interact with each other and with the other effects caused by the project.
  • The Impact Assessment Report informs the Decision-Making phase.

Decision-Making phase Footnote 3


  • After considering the Impact Assessment Report, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (the Minister) or Governor in Council (the Cabinet) makes a public interest determination.
  • This determination must be based on the Impact Assessment Report and the five public interest factors set out in the Act.Footnote 4 This includes a consideration of the health, social and economic effects of the project as set out in the Impact Assessment Report.
Post Decision phase
  • After the public interest determination is made, the Minister issues a Decision Statement.
  • If the decision is that the designated project is in the public interest, the Decision Statement will include conditions, the period in which the proponent must substantially begin the designated project, a description of the project, and reasons for the determination.
  • Conditions issued by the Minister may include mitigation measures that address adverse health, social or economic effects, or a follow-up program to monitor these effects over time.
  • Complementary measures may also be part of the Decision Statement. Examples include:
    • federal actions to address adverse health, social or economic effects; or
    • impacts to the rights of Indigenous peoples, that are outside the care and control of the proponent.

When assessing health, social and economic effects, practitioners and others involved in the conduct of an impact assessment should take the following considerations into account:

3.2 Meaningful engagement and consultation

3.3 Data and information sources

3.4 Data and information collection

3.5 Analyzing and reporting on data and information

4. Identifying health, social and economic valued components

4.1 Valued components: definition and significance

Health, social, economic, and environmental effects are inherently and inextricably connected.Footnote 12 They also intersect with effects on Indigenous cultures, and Aboriginal and Treaty rights. Selecting valued components that capture this complexity and reflect the project context is critical to predicting effects. Valued components (VCs) may be identified as having scientific, social, cultural, spiritual, economic, historical, archaeological or aesthetic importance. The Agency, other jurisdictions and federal authorities have a key role in identifying valued components. Once VCs are identified, they become the focus of the impact assessment, and an analysis of impacts to these components is carried throughout the assessment process.

4.2 How changes to a valued component can result in multiple effects

There can be multiple health, social and economic effects that result from changes to a valued component. For example, through engagement and consultation, communities may discuss social or cultural activities—such as hunting, camping, or other outdoor activities—that rely on access to specified areas. The VC highlighted may be land, specific parks, lakes or rivers. An impact to these VCs may result in:

4.3 Prioritizing valued components

There may be several valued components within an effect pathway (discussed below). Prioritization of VCs that are most important to assess should be informed by engagement with communities or impacted groups. Importantly, diverse subgroups within communities may prioritize different valued components based on their experience and relationships to the potentially impacted environment.

4.4 Effect pathways

The identification of VCs is a standard process in impact assessment, however, VCs themselves are not standardized. The identification of VCs is context-specific, and there may not be a single clear cause-and-effect relationship between the VC and the effect. For example, in table 2, the activity of construction may have multiple intermediate and longer-term effects that may be experienced differently by diverse subgroups depending on their proximity to the site, their use of the land and their baseline health status. When identifying VCs, practitioners should consider the effect pathway or expected link between the designated project and the valued component. For more information on the selection of VCs under the Act, refer to the Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines template (section 7 – baseline conditions).Footnote 13

Once identified, practitioners should finalize the effect pathways or lines of inquiry for each VC.

The pathways approach to effects analysis is a systematic way of breaking down a series of proposed cause-and-effect relationships and interactions into steps. The purpose is to understand the route by which health, social, and/or economic effects and their interactions occur. It is critical to understand that the cause-and-effect relationship does not need to be proven. Instead, the cause-and-effect relationship merely needs to be plausible within the context of the project.

4.4.1 Indicators and measurement

After VCs and pathways are identified, specific indicators and ways of measuring those VCs must be developed. As described in section 3, there are key principles to consider when selecting indicators including community validation, ethical measures and tools, and the use of both qualitative and quantitative indicators. Examples of indicators and data resources can be found in Annex 1.

The combined effects along a pathway can be equal to the sum of the individual effects (additive effect) or can be an increased effect (synergistic effect). The effect pathway can provide a visual illustration of these predictive additive or synergistic effects. The effect pathway can also illustrate the interrelations between health, social and economic effects. When developing an effect pathway, consider how a change in one effect (e.g., positive economic effects of job creation) can trigger a change in another effect category (e.g., positive health benefits of increased income).

4.4.2 How effect pathways inform mitigation and enhancement

Clear effect pathways, including consideration of whether an effect is additive or synergistic, also inform effective mitigation and enhancement strategies by identifying specific points along the effect pathway where action can be taken to foster better outcomes, and achieve broad project and community goals. In particular, adverse effects that are additive or synergistic are critical to mitigate in order to avoid the creation (or magnification) of negative feedback to the community and environment.

4.4.3 GBA+ in effect pathways

When developing an effect pathway, it is critical to consider whether the predicted effect and theoretical pathway will be experienced equally for all impacted groups within communities. Applying GBA+ to the theoretical pathway (from project activities to predicted effects) will ensure that a comprehensive analysis is completed.

Table 2: For example, subgroups within the affected population who live closer to the project site, or who use the land, water or other resources more frequently, may experience magnified effects. The pathway from predicted economic effects of new jobs and higher incomes may look different for subgroups in the community (e.g., disabled individuals, racialized communities). Considering these subgroups when constructing effect pathways encourages planning mitigations (e.g., targeted recruitment, accessible applications) to ensure predicted effects are realized. The application of GBA+ is required as part of the Act. Building GBA+ considerations into the development of effect pathways is critical to ensuring GBA+ is carried throughout the impact assessment.Footnote 14

Table 2: Examples of Valued Components and Project Effects
What are the valued components? What project components or activities could cause changes to environmental, health, social or economic conditions? What potential health, social or economic effects on the valued components could be caused by those changes?

Migratory Birds

Removal of vegetation resulting in habitat loss and destruction of nests and birds

  • Social effects from loss of harvesting activities
  • Health effects from loss of traditional food sources, impacts to cultural well-being
  • Economic impacts on ecotourism businesses

Mental Health

Restricted access in areas due to


  • Reduced access to areas where recreational activities are practiced, affecting mental health and well-being


New workers living in the area and new skill development opportunities

  • New learning and education opportunities through project-related work
  • Loss of land-based learning opportunities and potential interference with Indigenous groups' ability to transmit Indigenous knowledge to future generations


New employment opportunities

  • Economic effects such as less financial stress as higher incomes expected
  • Linked health effects as incomes rise
  • Linked social effects as communities grow with worker population and investments in infrastructure


Restricted access to cultural/spiritual sites due to construction

  • Interference with Indigenous groups' rights to land for traditional purposes
  • Linked health and social effects with impacts to spiritual and cultural well-being. 

5. Assessing health, social and economic effects under the Impact Assessment Act: Identifying methods

Methods to analyze health, social and economic effects will vary from project to project. However, they will tend to follow common steps such as:

The methodologies highlighted in this guidance are not intended to be prescriptive, nor is the suggestion that they need to be included in every impact assessment. Instead, they are offered to highlight existing guiding principles and best practices while leaving room for innovation in the field. Specific methods, tools or methodological approaches for the assessment of a specific VC will be presented in the Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines. It is also critical that methods for assessing effects on Indigenous peoples be developed in collaboration with Indigenous peoples to the extent possible, and that cultural considerations be taken into account. For example, social effects may be perceived differently by Indigenous peoples because of different world views.

Furthermore, the methods highlighted below should not be considered comprehensive. Instead, they should function as a starting point for proponents, the Agency, review panels, other jurisdictions, Indigenous peoples, and communities—these are methods to consider when conducting an impact assessment or when engaging in the impact assessment process.

5.1 Health effects and the determinants of health framework

Assessing potential positive and adverse health effects may include a consideration of biophysical concerns as well as a consideration of the broader social and economic environments in which people exist (see Figure 1). When assessing health effects, it is important to start from an understanding of health that is holistic. The World Health Organization defines health in the following way:  

“A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”Footnote 15

A “determinants of health” approach should be used when assessing changes to health conditions caused by the carrying out of a designated project. The use of a determinants of health approach most accurately reflects the multiple and interacting factors that cause health effects. For instance, communities often identify valued components that affect health but are within broader environments and contexts, such as water, housing, or land and cultural practices (see figure 1). Framing health issues within this broader context allows for clear articulation of how project-related changes can lead to health effects. For example, the impact of quality housing on community health and well-being, and concerns about increased cost or availability of housing with project activities, may lead a community to identify housing as a valued component. In this case, the effect pathway would clearly map any project-related changes that could impact housing and identify the endpoint indicators that will measure potential effects.

Such an approach recognizes that multiple impacts—related to a community's society and economy, as well as to Indigenous culture and rights, and to the environment—all collectively have an effect on human health. Rather than narrowly framing the causes of health outcomes in individual or personal terms, such as lifestyle behaviours (e.g., smoking, diet, exercise) and risk factors (e.g., body weight, genetic predispositions), a determinants of health approach broadens the focus to include the many factors that shape the conditions in which we live, grow, work and age. These conditions, in turn, influence health outcomes, as well as social and economic outcomes tied to health and wellbeing. One way to think about the determinants of health is as the “causes of the causes” of health outcomes. In other words, health is shaped by how resources and opportunities are distributed across society, and how social, economic and political forces influence this distribution.

5.1.1 Upstream and downstream impacts

Health effects may occur “upstream” or “downstream.”

Upstream impacts are interventions or actions that affect the distribution of health and wellbeing at a societal level by impacting social, economic, political, environmental, or other structural factors. Upstream impacts are focused on addressing the “causes of the causes,” for example, policies to increase affordable housing, work to address the health effects of lack of housing or substandard housing at a structural level.Footnote 16

Downstream impacts are influences to health at the more individual levels, by shaping living, working, and material conditions. For example, targeted actions to increase access to a program or service for a vulnerable subgroup (e.g., by changing hours, location or language of service) can work to address health inequities for this group.

The concepts of upstream, downstream, and determinants of health assist in conceptualizing how health outcomes link to broader pathways related to potential project effects. This may include ensuring that impact assessments, mitigation, and follow-up plans accurately scope and address potential project effects, including the interactions between effects.

When planning the impact assessment, practitioners should consider potential health effects within an upstream/downstream understanding to determine the appropriate point in the pathway to measure effects. For example, when considering housing as a valued component, some communities and proponents may identify housing availability as the best point to measure effects, while other communities may identify a point further downstream in the effect pathway (such as the quality of housing or the perceived impact of housing quality on community health).

5.1.2 Health effects and the Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines

The Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines will outline requirements for the assessment of potential health effects and will provide direction on the inclusion of context-specific determinants of health. The Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines will be specific to the project context and the potentially impacted communities, and the requirements for the assessment of health will reflect this context. The guidelines may specify:

There is no single definitive list or model of the determinants of health. Determinants of health shape the health of all Canadians and many determinants apply to all populations (e.g., socioeconomic status, physical environments, sex and gender). At the same time, some determinants have greater, lesser or intersecting impacts for different groups. For example, for Indigenous communities there are distinct determinants of health, such as self-determination, cultural continuity, the legacy of residential schools, and languageFootnote 17Footnote 18.The health and wellbeing of Indigenous communities are influenced by factors (such as land and the impacts of colonization) that intersect with other determinants in ways that are distinct from non-Indigenous Canadians. Models can assist in visualizing how determinants interact, and lists of determinants can be useful in scoping potential influences on health at different levels. Common to most models of the determinants of health is an understanding that health inequities are tied to wider factors, such as how resources, power and money are distributed within or between populations.Footnote 19 Indigenous-specific models of the determinants of health often include emphasis on the interconnections between the land and the spiritual and cultural determinants of health and well-being.Footnote 19Footnote 20

Figure 1 - Determinants of Health FrameworkFootnote 20
Figure 1 - Determinants of Health Framework
  • Summary

    The diagram shows how the determinants of health are layered and influence people in different ways. The diagram looks like a rainbow with a circle at the centre and under the first arch.

    The centre of the diagram is people of different ages in a circle. The circle has the following personal determinants of health: age, sex, constitutional factors.

    Above the circle is the first arch which identifies individual lifestyle factors as the first layer of health determinants.

    The second layer or arch is social and community networks.

    The third layer or arch is living and working conditions and includes factors such as agriculture and food production, education, work environment, unemployment, water and sanitation, health care services and houing.

    The final top layer or arch is general socioeconomic, cultural and environmental conditions.

5.1.3 Methods for assessing health effects

The importance of baseline information

  • To accurately predict project effects, a baseline community health profile of existing human health conditions—including the current state of physical, mental and social wellbeing—is needed.
  • For example, if there are existing high levels of air pollution and, as a result, a higher percentage of people with respiratory issues or other adverse health effects, this must be taken into account when modelling predicted effects.
  • Baseline health issues—such as rates of chronic disease (e.g., cancer, diabetes and heart disease), rates of gender-based violence, and mental health issues—are important context for modelling predicted effects of the project, both on its own and in combination with all other physical works, activities, and agents causing cumulative effects.
  • Local context and knowledge must be given appropriate consideration in establishing the baseline community health profile.

Individual health effects can be assessed in an impact assessment using standard research methods (e.g., surveys, field work, interviews, focus groups). A determinants of health approach can be applied to the assessment of individual health effects by selecting indicators that reflect this broad approach and situating the analysis within a broad understanding of health (Table 3). In some cases, factors that impact health may be assessed by other aspects of the impact assessment, such as the social or economic analysis. Effect pathways are a useful tool to illustrate and investigate these interactions.

When multiple health effects are assessed or when health is the central aspect of an assessment, there are two primary approaches used—Health Impact Assessment (HIA) and Human Health Risk Assessment (HHRA). These approaches include multiple tools and methods: their use will depend on the context, specific factors that impact health within project communities, and what health issues are important in those settings. HIAs enable a determinants of health approach by assessing a broad range of factors that contribute to health. In general, an HHRA focuses on biophysical health effects, and uses quantitative models to assess risk. For this reason, an HHRA may not include an explicit consideration of the determinants of health, and therefore may not provide a holistic understanding of health effects. However, findings from HHRA risk models remain important for quantifying risk, which can produce findings that can be situated within a broader assessment of health.

In the context of the impact assessment system, the construction and operation of designated projects can create health effects. From a determinants of health perspective, health effects can be the result of non-health related impacts of the project, such as changes to the environment, changes to local and regional economies, or changes to the social structure of communities.Footnote 21 For example, as connections to nature contribute positively to individuals’ physical and mental health and well-being, project activities that disrupt access to land can have adverse health impacts.Footnote 22 Income and health are also closely linked; for example, income relates to the resources available to an individual to maintain their health and access other determinants (e.g., education, child development, housing). However, income inequality can also affect the health of a communityFootnote 22 by impacting social cohesion or health inequalities, and the operational requirements of major resource projects—such as distance from families and communities and shift-based work—can adversely impact the physical and mental health of workers and their familiesFootnote 23,Footnote 24,Footnote 25 . It is thus important to consider the potential for both positive and adverse health effects that can result from the economic impacts of projects. 

There are many ways through which project-related changes that impact health can be placed in an effect pathway, considered as part of the impact assessment, and mitigated or enhanced. For example, communities, proponents and decision-makers may want to understand how worksite schedules will impact health. To aid their understanding, they may include measures such as length of shifts, worksite accommodations (e.g., fly-in/fly-out or in community), job types, and salaries in the assessment of whether jobs will benefit or adversely affect health.

The Agency has guidance for the assessment of effects to the rights of Indigenous peoples and for the inclusion of Indigenous knowledge in the impact assessment processFootnote 26. Practitioners may consult these documents for additional guidance on considering the intersections between health, Indigenous knowledge, and impacts to the rights of Indigenous peoples.

5.1.4 Using the Health Impact Assessment method

A Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is a systematic process that uses specific steps, standards and principles to examine the possible positive and adverse health impacts to communities, as well as the distribution of those impacts within the population, often including the unintended effects of a designated project.

With HIA, the ways in which health effects are measured will depend on the context of the community where the designated project is planned,Footnote 27 and may therefore include various measurement and analytical tools. For example, if traditional language skills are identified as a valued component and a key aspect of health in an Indigenous community, an examination of existing data, a survey, or interviews could determine the extent of language use in the community. Community input would then determine how/if a designated project may impact language and thereby health. Mitigation can include workplace policies at project sites to support the use of Indigenous language and investment in community social projects to protect language. The methods chosen will be context specific and will be dependent on what is to be measured. Proponents should make sure that the assessment of health takes into account community understandings and uses the best available evidence and methods. Assessment of health is linked to, and may overlap with, analysis of social and economic effects. More information on HIA including standard methods, tools and principles can be found in Annex 1 (resource list).

Table 3: Linking health as a valued component to the determinants of healthFootnote 28
Determinant Examples of determinants of health indicators

Health demographics

Birth and death rates; life expectancy; disease-specific mortality rate; unintentional injuries

Health behaviours

Risk-taking behaviours; diet; exercise; drug, alcohol misuse

Mental health and well-being

Well-being; feelings of isolation; remoteness; concern for future; access to services; self-determination; perceived mental health; prevalence of mental health conditions


Proportion of people who are marginally housed; quality of housing; crowdedness; access to safe housing; social housing; wait lists for affordable housing


Average income; average family income; female lone parent family average income; income inequality; percent of population living below poverty line; consumer price index


Number of residents who completed high school; proportion of youth who complete high school; land-based learning

Social environment

Community safety; social support; community cohesion; food security; governance; violence against women


Language; cultural practices and traditions; connection to land

5.1.5 Using the Human Health Risk Assessment method

A human health risk assessment (HHRA) focuses on biological/physiological aspects of health by examining the risks of exposure to chemicals in the environment (soil, water, air) on humans.Footnote 29Footnote 30 An HHRA involves four defined steps:

  1. hazard identification
  2. hazard characterization
  3. exposure assessment
  4. risk characterization

In impact assessment, it is standard practice to use HHRA to predict risks associated with designated project-related changes to the air, water or soil. For example, when analyzing the health effects of exposure to air emissions, practitioners would consider the results of air quality modeling when describing the baseline and potential adverse effects. HHRAs are also often used to model levels of contaminants in traditional food sources. In these models, it is important to include both quantifiable risk and also perceived risk. For example, risk models may indicate that traditional food sources are not contaminated, but Indigenous communities may alter use and consumption of foods perceived to be contaminated and this can impact spiritual and physical health. As highlighted in the key considerations section of this document, it is critical to analyse and interpret data within the community context. While an HHRA may not explicitly include the full range of determinants of health, biophysical determinants (such as sex and age) are usually included in risk models. For example, predicted risks to vulnerable groups—such as children, those closer to the exposure, or pregnant women—are calculated separately. Findings from HHRA models can be situated within an understanding of the broader determinants of health and in some cases, an HHRA is embedded within an HIA.

For both HHRA and HIA, proponents should work closely with the relevant communities to develop the approach to data collection, indicator selection and data analysis (see Table 2 for example indicators). The decision to conduct both an HIA and HHRA (or one of the two) will depend on the project context and direction provided in the Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines. The Agency, in consultation with expert federal departments and potentially impacted communities, will determine what approach to the assessment of health effects is required. The approach will depend upon the scope of the project, the location and context, and input received in early planning.

5.2 Social effects

The social effects of a designated project may include any issues associated with changes to the social environment that result from the project—changes that affect or concern people, whether directly or indirectly. The International Association of Impact Assessment defines a social effect as:

“A cognitive or physical effect experienced by an individual person or their community and caused by a change in the social or ecological environment.”Footnote 31

Within the practice of impact assessment, social impact assessment is a distinct practice with various tools and methods. However, within a broad impact assessment that considers the full scope of a project’s environmental, health, social and economic effects, as well as impacts on the rights of Indigenous peoples, there is substantial overlap in categories of effects and in the methods and tools used to assess effects. For example, a detailed HIA that takes a determinants of health approach will include the assessment of many social effects, as there is substantial interaction across categories. Indicators like community safety may be addressed as a determinant of health, but it also may be considered a social effect.

Despite the potential overlap between health, social and economic effects within an impact assessment, the proponent must demonstrate that the relevant potential social effects of the project were evaluated as part of the Act. In some cases, this may mean clearly articulating in an effect pathway how a VC has both social and health effects (e.g., community safety). In other cases, there may be a distinct set of VCs that fall within the category of social effects.

As a best practice, practitioners should begin by defining the social and ecological environments within the context of the project by detailing the biophysical and social components within the study area. The social environment is comprised of the components that define a community and/or a region at the household, workplace, and community/regional level. Examples include the demographics, community services (e.g., policing, maintenance), land use, and institutions (e.g., government, schools) that define a community or region. The ecological environment is comprised of the biophysical components in the air, water and landscape features in the impacted community/region, such as lakes, rivers and forests. Components of the ecological environment are always included in an impact assessment. In this section, the focus is on social effects that can occur with changes to the ecological environment versus general environmental effects (e.g., loss of habitat).

5.2.1 Socially valued components: Categories, examples and contexts

Categories of socially valued components that may be affected by project activities can include the following:

Social effects may be defined in four realms: in the home, in the community, at work and on the land. For example, a holistic assessment of a particular social effect should examine the varying ways that the effect is experienced by people within the home, at work, in the community, and in their local environment. This approach to analysing social effects aligns with the upstream and downstream framing of health effects within a determinants of health approach.

The potential social effects of a designated project are context specific. Therefore, when assessing social impacts, the relevant communities (and diverse groups within these communities) should be engaged in the assessment in order to ensure that predicted social impacts are identified, prioritized and characterized correctly.

5.2.2 Methods: Social Impact Assessment

A Social Impact Assessment (SIA) is the primary approach to a comprehensive assessment of the social effects of a designated project. A SIA is a systematic process of analysing, monitoring and proposing mitigation measures for social effects of projects, including intended and unintended social changes caused by projects.Footnote 32 A SIA will include similar steps and methods to those used for assessments of health or economic effects, including the following key aspects:

The broad approach to SIA includes many of the best practices for impact assessment as a whole. As with the assessment of environmental, health or economic effects, the methods, models or tools will vary depending on the indicator studied. For example, to measure predicted effects on community safety, practitioners may conduct a community mapping study, focus groups, interviews, or a quantitative survey. The specific method or tool for data collection or analysis should be selected in consultation with community members. Ideally, data collection and analysis will be participatory and provide capacity and skills building opportunities for community members.Footnote 33 Footnote 34 For Indigenous communities, SIA methods should be co-developed to the extent possible.

5.2.3 Significance of timing and duration when evaluating social effects

Social effects may take time to emerge—particularly effects that impact community values, attitudes, and resilience. Some designated projects have a relatively short construction phase and a long operation phase. The time scale for the project is important to consider when evaluating social effects, particularly as projects become part of the social fabric of a community over time. For example, as people enter or leave a community to work on a designated project site, the social makeup of that community may be positively or adversely impacted. The social fabric of a community may improve over time as incomes rise and project revenues are invested in community services (e.g., childcare) and infrastructure (e.g., roads), and as the project becomes part of the community identity. Identifying the timing and duration of the social effect is necessary to help inform on-going monitoring and follow-up activities.

The specific social effects that will be required in the impact assessment will be determined based on the project context and will be articulated in the Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines. The Agency, in consultation with expert federal departments and potentially impacted communities, will determine what approach to the assessment of social effects is required given the scope of the project, the location and context, as well as input received in early planning. If the context demands a full SIA (versus consideration of individual, specified social VCs), this will be included in the Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines. A full SIA may be required if the impacted community requests this type of assessment or if the primary VCs of interest are social in nature. A SIA may also be nested within the larger impact assessment, or select methods and approaches from a SIA may be used for the assessment of social effects.

5.2.4 Guidance documents on social effects

Technical guidance from a broad range of international associations is available and should be consulted for guiding principles, definitions and evidence-based tools, such as:

5.3 Economic effects

For the purposes of impact assessments under the Act, economic effects can be defined as:

“The positive and adverse consequences of a designated project on components of the economy at the local, regional, and national levels.”

The components of the economy include:

5.3.1 Direct, indirect or induced economic effects

The specific economic effects that will be required in the impact assessment will be based on the project context and will be articulated in the Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines. Depending on the nature of the project, the assessment of the economic impacts of a project may take into account the community, regional and national-level effects of the project, both positive and adverse. Economic effects may be either direct, indirect, or induced.

Any of the components of the economy discussed above may experience direct and indirect effects. By definition, induced effects are restricted to consumer spending. The components of the economy (and the VCs that fall under those components) may be affected in both positive and adverse ways. The Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines may articulate specific economic components and/or methods that must be included in the analysis.

The assessment of economic effects may also include a consideration of the community, regional and national-level capacity to take advantage of the economic opportunities created by a project. For example, the economic benefits of job creation may not be directly realized in a small community with a limited pool of skilled labour. It is also important to consider cultural and social effects from changes to the economy in a given area. For example, a shift from a traditional fishing economy towards industrial work, particularly where individuals are leaving a community for long periods of time, can affect the connection that people have with their community and to their culture. This can also impact families and children, and the ability to pass on language and culture associated with traditional activities. Understanding the community context supports a clear description of the scale of potential local, regional and national economic effects.

5.3.2 Methods: Tools for economic impact assessment

There are several different methods of conducting economic analysis. Some approaches, such as those advanced by international finance institutions like the World BankFootnote 35, Inter-American Development BankFootnote 36, and the Asian Development Bank,Footnote 37 centre considerations on the economic feasibility and financial sustainability of projects. Other examples drafted by governments (e.g., Australian State of QueenslandFootnote 38) and private sector entities (e.g., Anglo AmericanFootnote 39) highlight the interconnected nature of social and economic effects (i.e., socioeconomic effects). Within these approaches, there are specific tools and methods that can be used depending on the focus of the analysis:

Each of these methods for economic analysis starts with a description of the baseline, or the local and regional economic environment in the absence of the project. This should include a description of the various components of the economy (as defined above). The method of analysis chosen will dictate a set of predicted economic effects to examine for the analysis. The practitioner should then describe these predicted economic effects. When conducting the economic impact assessment, rather than only reporting the economic effect in aggregate, practitioners should describe the direct, indirect and induced effects. Presenting all three types of effects will help to determine the potential positive and adverse economic impacts on different groups at local, regional and national levels.

5.3.3 Key considerations for analyzing economic effects

Practitioners should keep in mind the following key considerations when carrying out an analysis of effects:

5.3.4 Additional considerations: Economic feasibility

Whether a project’s predicted economic effects come to pass will depend on the project’s economic feasibility. Proponents may be required to provide details on the business case for the project. This could include a description of the assumptions about the project’s feasibility under a range of scenarios. It might also describe how the positive and adverse economic effects could potentially change under these different scenarios. For example, an analysis of a natural resource project should include a range of estimates for the project’s viability in light of possible changes to commodity prices, as these changes could impact the size of the royalties that would result from the project. . This is due to the fact that changes to commodity prices could impact the size of the royalties that would result. A thorough analysis of a project’s business case will aid decision-makers in understanding the certainty of predicted positive and adverse economic effects.

6. Health, social, economic effects in Decision-Making and Post Decision phases

The Act requires the Minister or Governor in Council make a decision as to whether the project’s effects are in the public interest. This public interest determination must be based on the Impact Assessment Report and the five public interest factors that are set out in the Act. The Impact Assessment Report will take into account the changes to health, social or economic conditions and the positive and adverse consequences of these changes that are likely to be caused by the carrying out of the designated project. The portions of the report addressing the health, social or economic impacts of the project will also inform the decision-maker’s consideration of the public interest factors, and in particular may be relevant to four of these factors:

If the decision-maker determines that the adverse effects within federal jurisdiction and the adverse direct or incidental effects indicated in the Impact Assessment Report are in the public interest, the Minister issues a Decision Statement that includes conditions the proponent must comply with. This may include conditions that mitigate adverse health, social or economic effects within federal jurisdiction or that are direct or incidental effects, such as mitigation or monitoring requirements focused on the health, social or economic effects identified in the report. Conditions might also accommodate an adverse impact to the rights of Indigenous peoples, including those arising from effects on Indigenous peoples’ health, social or economic conditions.

For impacts beyond federal jurisdiction, depending on the context, an adverse health, social or economic effect may be addressed by provincial, territorial or Indigenous partners, or voluntarily by proponents.

The Government of Canada may also put in place complementary measures, which are initiatives undertaken under federal programs or under the authority of a federal minister or department, beyond those stated in the Act. Complementary measures may be used to address issues outside of the care and control of a proponent, such as cross-cutting issues requiring an integrated response or to accommodate adverse impacts to section 35 rights held by Indigenous peoples. They may also be used to leverage and enhance the positive effects of a project. Examples of complementary measures may include skill development and training programs, or social programs.

Annex 1 – Key resources

Health Impact Assessment

Social Impact Assessment

Economic Impact Assessment

Annex 2 – Examples of potential valued components that are relevant to health, social and economic effects

Table 4: Examples of potential valued components that are relevant to health, social and economic effects
Criteria Example Indicators*
Health & well-being
Clean air
  • Air quality indicators (e.g., pollutants, dust, smog)
  • Rates of respiratory illnesses
Clean water
  • Water quality indicators
  • Availability of water resources
  • Groundwater quality
Mental health & well-being
  • Prevalence of mental health conditions
  • Self-rated mental health
Health behaviours
  • Risk-taking behaviours
  • Rates of alcohol, drug misuse
  • Exercise and physical activity
  • Diet
  • Consumption of traditional foods
Health conditions
  • Birth and death rates
  • Life expectancy
  • Disease-specific mortality rates
  • Unintentional injuries
  • Sexually transmitted infections
Access to community health care
  • Number and type of health services
  • Accessibility of health services
  • Housing availability
  • Quality of housing
  • Access to safe housing
Social well-being
Social services
  • Childcare services
  • Education
  • Community recreation
  • Women’s shelters
  • Homeless shelters and services
  • Emergency and police services
  • Transportation
Community cohesion
  • Social networks
  • Levels of volunteerism
  • Community gatherings
  • Cultural and spiritual practices
  • Traditional language use
Community safety
  • Rates of crime
  • Rates of gender-based violence
  • Traffic accidents
  • Perceived safety
  • Recreational spaces
  • Spiritual and culturally important sites
  • Visual landscape
Economic well-being
  • Number of jobs
  • Type of jobs
  • Employment rates
  • Rates of full-time, part-time, seasonal employment
  • Average income
  • Gender wage gaps
  • Income disparities
  • Percent living below poverty line
Cost of living
  • Housing prices
  • Availability of affordable housing
  • Consumer prices
Local economies
  • Contracting opportunities
  • Number of local businesses
  • Change in property values
Traditional economies
  • Market value of traditional economy
  • Value of goods from traditional economy
  • Percent of people participating in traditional economy

Annex 3 – Data sources

The following table highlights some key data sources for health, social and economic effects. This should be considered a starting point, as more data collection will be necessary to accurately inform project-specific and context-specific information.

Table 5: Key data sources for health, social and economic effects
Topic Source


Determinants of Health for Aboriginal Peoples

National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health:

First Nations Regional Health

First Nations Information Governance Centre:

Health Inequalities

Public Health Agency of Canada:

Health Inequalities

Public Health Agency of Canada:

Determinants of Health

Indicators of the Determinants of Health, Northern Health (BC):

Mental Health

Public Health Agency of Canada:

Food Security

Statistics Canada:

Health Services

Open Database of Healthcare Facilities, Statistics Canada:


Education (by Region)

Statistics Canada:

Post-Secondary Education

Statistics Canada:


Statistics Canada:

Skills (Trades)

Statistics Canada:

Crime & Offences

Statistics Canada:

Social Networks and Public Engagement 

Statistics Canada:

Volunteering and Community Involvement

Statistics Canada:


Statistics Canada:


General Demographic Information (age, gender, ethnicity, language, education, employment, etc.)

Statistics Canada: Census Profile, 2016:

GDP (by province/territory and by industry)

Statistics Canada:

Labour Force Survey

Statistics Canada Interactive Map:

Employment Insurance Economic Regions

Government of Canada:

Housing Markets

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation:

Oil and Gas sector

Natural Resources Canada (Oil Pricing):

Canada Energy Regulator (Natural gas, crude oil, and electricity):

Local gas prices

Canadian Automobile Association:

Global Commodity Prices

World Bank Commodity Markets Outlook:


Footnote 1

A designated project is a project that includes one or more physical activities that are designated by the Physical Activities Regulation (Project List), or one or more physical activities that have been designated by an order of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change. 

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Footnote 2

Note that this information should be read so as to include opportunities for collaboration and cooperation with Indigenous peoples; please consult the Guidance: Collaboration with Indigenous Peoples in Impact Assessments for further information.

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Footnote 3

Refer to Section 6 below, and to the Policy Context: Public Interest Determination under the Impact Assessment Act for further information on the public interest determination.

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Footnote 4

Refer to the “Public Interest Factors” section in the Agency’s Policy Context: Public Interest Determination under the Impact Assessment Act.

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Footnote 5

Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (2018). Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines: Section 12.1 Physical and Cultural Heritage.

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Footnote 6

When working with Indigenous communities, follow the community’s protocols for using Indigenous knowledge. For more on this, consult the Agency guidance Protecting Confidential Indigenous Knowledge under the Impact Assessment Act, and Guidance: Indigenous Knowledge in Impact Assessment.

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Footnote 7

See for example, Bhatia et al, (2014). Minimum Elements and Practice Standards for Health Impact Assessment, Version 3.

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Footnote 8

Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2018). Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans.

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Footnote 9

Statistics Canada (2011). Data quality and confidentiality standards and guidelines.

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Footnote 10

Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2018). Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans – Chapter 9: Research Involving the First Nations, Inuit and Metis Peoples of Canada.

Return to Footnote 10 referrer

Footnote 11

First Nations Information Governance Centre (2013). Ownership, Access, and Possession (OCAP) or Self-Determination Applied to Research.

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Footnote 12

Public Health Agency of Canada (2018). Key Health Inequalities in Canada: A National Portrait.

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Footnote 13

Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (2019). Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines.

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Footnote 14

Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (2019). Guidance: Gender-based Analysis Plus in Impact Assessment.

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Footnote 15

World Health Organization. (1946). Preamble to the Constitution of WHO as adopted by the International Health Conference, New York, 19 June22 July 1946; signed on 22 July 1946 by the representatives of 61 States (Official Records of WHO, no. 2, p. 100) and entered into force on 7 April 1948.

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Footnote 16

National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health (2014). Let’s talk: Moving upstream. Antigonish, NS: National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health, St. Francis Xavier University.

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Footnote 17

Greenwood M.L., de Leeuw S.N. (2012). Social determinants of health and the future well-being of Aboriginal children in Canada. Paediatric Child Health; 17(7):381-384.

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Footnote 18

Reading C.L., Wien F. (2009). Health inequalities and social determinants of Aboriginal peoples health. National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health.

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Footnote 19

World Health Organization (2010). A conceptual framework for action on the social determinants of health: Social Determinants of Health Discussion Paper 2.

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Footnote 20

Dahlgren G., Whitehead M. (1991). Policies and Strategies to Promote Social Equity in Health. Stockholm, Sweden: Institute for Futures Studies.

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Footnote 21

Aalhus M., Oke B. and Fumerton R. (2018). The social determinants of health impacts of resource extraction and development in rural and northern communities: A summary of impacts and promising practices for assessment and monitoring. British Columbia Northern Health and the Provincial Health Services Authority.

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Footnote 22

Bratman G.N. et al. (2019). “Nature and mental health: An ecosystem service perspective”, Science Advances; 5(7).

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Footnote 23

Lynch J., Smith G.D., Harper S., Hillemeier M., Ross N., Kaplan G. A., and Wolfson M. (2004). “Is income inequality a determinant of population health? Part 1. A systematic review”, The Milbank Quarterly, 82(1), 5–99.

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Footnote 24

Amnesty International (2016). Out of sight, out of mind: Gender, indigenous rights, and energy development in northeast British Columbia, Canada.

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Footnote 25

Manning S., Nash P., Levac L., Stienstra D. and Stinson J. (2018). Strengthening Impact Assessments for Indigenous Women

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Footnote 26

Nightingale E., Czyzewski K., Tester F., and Aaruaq N. (2017). “The effects of resource extraction on Inuit women and their families: evidence from Canada”,  Gender and Development, 25(3): 367-385.

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Footnote 27

Bhatia R. (2011). Health Impact Assessment: A Guide for Practice. Oakland, CA: Human Impact Partners.

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Footnote 28

Buse C.G., Cornisk K., Parkes M.W., Harder H., Fumerton R., Rasali D., Li C., Oke B., Loewen D. and Aalhus M. (2018). Towards more robust and locally meaningful indicators for monitoring the social determinants of health related to resource development across Northern BC. Report prepared for Northern Health. Prince George, BC: University of Northern British Columbia.

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Footnote 29

World Health Organization (2010). WHO Human Health Risk Assessment Toolkit: Chemical Hazards.;jsessionid=0D4B8BA77953AC55CF0E8EACE25EA574?sequence=1

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Footnote 30

Health Canada (2019). Guidance for Evaluating Human Health Impacts in Environmental Assessment: Human Health Risk Assessment.

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Footnote 31

Vanclay F., Esteves A.M., Aucamp I. and Franks D. (2015). Social Impact Assessment: Guidance for Assessing and Managing the Social Impacts of Projects. Fargo ND: International Association for Impact Assessment.

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Footnote 32

Vanclay F. 2003. International Principles for Social Impact Assessment. Impact Assessment & Project Appraisal 21(1): 5-11. Also available from:

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Footnote 33

Esteves A.M., Franks D. and Vanclay F. (2012). “Social Impact Assessment: The State of the Art”, Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal; 30(1).

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Footnote 34

Branch K., Hooper D., Thompson J. and Creighton J. (1984). Guide To Social Impact Assessment: A Framework For Assessing Social Change. Routledge, New York.

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Footnote 35

World Bank (2020). Environmental and Social Framework Resources.

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Footnote 36

Inter-American Development Bank (2020). Economic Analysis Overview.

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Footnote 37

Asian Development Bank (2017). Guidelines for the Economic Analysis of Projects.

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Footnote 38

State of Queensland (2017). Economic Impact Assessment Guideline, Department of State Development.

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Footnote 39

Anglo American (2014). SEAT Toolbox: Socio-Economic Assessment Toolbox, Version 3.

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