Operational Policy Statement

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Development of Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines

March 30, 2022

Background

A key element of the impact assessment process under the Impact Assessment Act (IAA) is the preparation of project-specific Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines (the Guidelines) during the 180-day Planning phase.

The Guidelines are prepared by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC) and aim to:

Following a public comment period on the draft Guidelines, IAAC posts the final Guidelines on the Canadian Impact Assessment Registry (the Registry), along with other planning documents, at the end of the Planning phase.

Legislative context

The purposes of the IAA require, among other things, are to:

The IAA also requires that assessment processes are fair, predictable and efficient to enhance Canada’s competitiveness, encourage innovation in carrying out designated projects and create opportunities for sustainable economic development.Footnote1 Additionally, the IAA directs IAAC to determine the scope of the factors to be considered in an impact assessment, as well as the extent of their relevance to the impact assessment. IAAC must also be mindful that the assessment practices and processes allow the Government of Canada to meet the legislative timelines for the conduct of an impact assessment and for decision-making.Footnote2

Through the Guidelines, the IAA requires IAAC to outline to the proponent the mandatory information or studies that need to be undertaken in preparing its Impact Statement.Footnote3 While IAAC is obligated to take into account all subsection 22(1) factors in determining what information or studies it considers necessary for the conduct of the impact assessment, IAAC is required to determine the scope of certain factors and the extent of the relevance of those factors to the particular impact assessment.Footnote4 The Guidelines will reflect IAAC’s scoping and tailoring decisions. In the case of an integrated impact assessment with a lifecycle regulator, IAAC leads the development of the Guidelines, working collaboratively with the respective lifecycle regulator.

Based on the information and study requirements set out in the Guidelines, the proponent will have up to three years to develop its Impact Statement to the satisfaction of IAAC.Footnote5 The Impact Statement is a principle source of information for IAAC, or the review panel, to undertake the assessment, write the Impact Assessment Report, and provide advice and recommendations to decision-makers within the legislative timelines of the IAA.

Objectives of the Guidelines

The objectives of the Guidelines are to:

1. set the scope of the factors of the assessment (the relevant s. 22 factors), including by identifying the valued componentsFootnote6 to be assessed during the conduct of the impact assessment;

2. provide clear and specific information and study requirements to support a proponent’s submission of a satisfactory Impact Statement; and,

3. provide transparency to all participants on what will be considered in an impact assessment.

Approach to the development of the Guidelines

The process for developing the Guidelines is based on the nature and complexity of the project, in addition to its ecological and social context, and the potential impacts on Indigenous peoples. In developing the project-specific Guidelines, IAAC will focus the assessment on the key issues, effects, and relevant factors, which are identified during the Planning phase, that are anticipated to be material and relevant to decision making.

The approach to the development of the Guidelines is informed by the anticipated level of risk inherent to a predicted effect. In simple terms, risk is a function of the likelihood that an adverse effect may happen, following the application of mitigation measures, and the degree of negative impact that may result from its occurrence.

IAAC’s decisions regarding the scope of certain factors, or the extent of the relevance of certain factors, are often based on practitioners’Footnote7 professional, informed judgement regarding the information and studies that are required to inform the impact assessment. These decisions are frequently complex, and may require IAAC to balance different and conflicting views presented by different participants in an impact assessment.Footnote8 IAAC will carefully consider the available evidence, and aim to focus the assessment on key issues identified during the Planning phase.

IAAC strives to carefully balance having Guidelines that have focused and relevant information requirements, with the risk of failing to identify a potential effect that would be material to decision making. IAAC decisions taken during the development of the Guidelines will also take into account the information that will be needed to support decision makers and to satisfy the Crown’s duty to consult.

Considerations for developing the Guidelines

IAAC’s decisions in the development of the Guidelines (tailoring decisions) are to be informed by evidence. While facts and evidence are the critical base for tailoring decisions, it is important to recognize that evidence comes in many forms, including:

Other important considerations that inform the development of the Guidelines include:

The tailoring decisions draw heavily upon the information and details provided in a proponent’s project description documents. Proponents are therefore encouraged to provide detailed information regarding the following:

The incorporation of issues identified by Indigenous groups, and consideration of Indigenous knowledge, provide an early opportunity for the Crown to demonstrate responsiveness to Indigenous community concerns and create a foundation for meaningful dialogue throughout consultations. IAAC will thoroughly consider including information requirements that have been identified as important, or as an area of concern, during consultation and engagement with Indigenous groups. Project-related issues identified as having the potential to adversely impact the rights of Indigenous peoples should be appropriately included in the Guidelines. Additionally, issues identified based on Indigenous knowledge should be thoroughly considered for inclusion in the Guidelines.

Expert federal authorities, as key contributors in the development of the Guidelines, are encouraged to align their advice with IAAC’s approach to the development of project-specific guidelines. In particular, the required level of detail for information and studies should aim to be commensurate with the aim to focus the assessment on key issues that are anticipated to be relevant and material to decision making.

In order to support the Government of Canada’s objective of "one project, one assessment," and to encourage inter-jurisdictional cooperation (to the greatest extent possible), the Guidelines will identify where the federal and provincial assessment processes have shared information requirements. Practitioners will seek to align and harmonize the federal assessment process with those of other jurisdictions and (where possible) eliminate duplicative or marginally different information requirements. Moreover, federally identified valued components and the valued component information requirements will, to the extent possible, be harmonized with the requirements of the other jurisdiction. This may enable the proponent to submit one filing (e.g. Impact Statement) to fulfill the requirements of both jurisdictions. Where possible, the information requirements of each jurisdiction will focus on their respective areas of jurisdiction, expertise, and knowledge to allow for an effective assessment of the project’s effects within the legislative timelines.

The process to tailor the Guidelines

To support the development of the Guidelines, IAAC has developed a Guidelines Template (the Template) that is to serve as the starting point. The Template sets out a comprehensive list of potential information requirements that may be included in the project-specific Guidelines. The Template is intentionally written to be broad and inclusive of various types of information requirements for a wide range of project types. Practitioners will use the Template as the basis upon which to tailor the specific requirements that are relevant to the project.

Key steps for using the Guidelines Template:

1. Remove the valued components and/or valued component information requirements from the template that are not relevant to the specific project or where there are no mitigation measures required.

2. Consider removing or reducing valued component information requirements where sufficient information is available to anticipate that residual effects related to the project are negligible.

3. Modify or add new information requirements for valued components identified in the Template, or add new valued components and associated information requirements, as needed for the project-specific context.

4. Modify information requirements for the other relevant s. 22 factors reflecting the project-specific context.

Tailoring decisions will be communicated in a transparent manner. While tailoring decisions will be made throughout the Planning phase, it is preferable that important tailoring decisions, and tailoring decisions where there may be uncertainty, be made prior to the issuance of the draft Guidelines. This will provide an opportunity for these decisions to be communicated early by IAAC, as well as to revisit decisions prior to the issuance of the final Guidelines. Additionally, key advice and communications received from impact assessment participants, which help shape the development of the Guidelines, are to be posted to the Registry.

Conclusion

The Guidelines issued at the end of the 180-day Planning phase set the scope of the assessment factors and identify the information and studies that IAAC requires and considers necessary for the conduct of the impact assessment. The development of the Guidelines considers the individual project context and aims to focus the assessment on the priority project effects, impacts on the rights of Indigenous peoples of Canada, and issues that are material to decision making under the IAA.

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