Projects on Federal Lands and Outside Canada
This page provides information about requirements for projects on federal lands and outside Canada.
It is intended for:
- authorities (with responsibilities related to such projects) that are seeking to understand their obligations under the Impact Assessment Act (IAA); and
- members of the public who have an interest in these projects.
The page provides an overview of the legislation, the authorities’ obligations, exceptions and the types of projects for which these obligations apply.
The Impact Assessment Act (IAA) includes provisions for projects on federal lands and outside Canada that are not considered “designated projects” under the Physical Activities Regulations or designated by the Regulations Respecting Excluded Physical Activities (Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Exploratory Wells). Sections 81 to 91 of the IAA set out requirements in relation to a “project” on federal lands or outside Canada, which apply to federal authorities and authorities set out in Schedule 4. These requirements do not apply to an authority in emergency situations identified in the IAA (s. 91).
Obligation on authorities
Projects on federal lands
For projects on federal lands, section 82 of the IAA prohibits authorities from:
- carrying out a project;
- exercising any power or performing any duty or function conferred to it under any other Act of Parliament; or
- providing financial assistance to any person for the purpose of enabling the project to be carried out on federal lands.
This prohibition applies unless:
- the authority makes a determination that the carrying out of the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects; or
- the authority determines that the carrying out of the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, and the Governor in Council decides that those effects are justified in the circumstances.
Projects outside Canada
For projects outside Canada, section 83 prohibits federal authorities from:
- carrying out a project; or
- providing financial assistance to any person for the purpose of enabling that project to be carried out outside Canada.
This prohibition applies unless:
- the federal authority determines that the carrying out of the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects; or
- the federal authority determines that the carrying out of the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects and the Governor in Council decides that those effects are justified in the circumstances.
In making their environmental effects determination, authorities must:
- look at the definition of environmental effects in section 81 in order to identify which effects of the project should be included in the determination; and
- base their decision on the factors to consider set out in section 84.
Posting public notices on the Registry for projects
As per s. 86, authorities responsible for a “project” must post the following types of public notices on the Canadian Impact Assessment Registry:
- a notice of intent to make a determination on a project inviting the public to provide comments respecting that determination; and
- a notice of determination, no less than 30 days after the first posting, including any mitigation measures taken into account in making the determination.
What projects do these obligations apply to?
Projects defined in section 81 of the IAA
The obligation to make a determination applies to a “project,” which is defined in section 81 as:
- “a physical activity that is carried out on federal lands or outside Canada in relation to a physical work and that is not a designated project or a physical activity designated by regulations made under paragraphed 112(1)(a.2)”; and
- “a physical activity that is designated under section 87 or that is part of a class of physical activities that is designated under that section.”
Projects designated by a Ministerial Order
The IAA also allows the Minister to expand or narrow the definition of “project” through an Order.
- Section 87 allows the Minister to expand the definition of project by identifying “physical activities” that are not “in relation to physical works.” If an Order were made under s. 87, any authority responsible for such project would be required to make an environmental effect determination.
- Section 88 gives the Minister the ability to exclude projects from the application of these provisions if the Minister is of the opinion that the class of projects will cause only insignificant adverse environmental effects.
To date, only a Ministerial order under s. 88 has been made. The Designated Classes of Projects Order came into force on August 30, 2019. Authorities are not subject to the requirement to make an environmental effects determination under section 82 or 83, or associated requirements, with respect to projects that are part of a class of projects described in the Order.
Transitional provisions describe how the IAA applies to projects that started before the IAA was in force. You can find these in the Physical Activities Regulations (ss. 4(1) and 4(2)).
For more information on these provisions, please consult the Guidance document on Sections 81 to 91 of the Impact Assessment Act.
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