Fact Sheet – Strategic Assessment under the Impact Assessment Act

What is a strategic assessment?

Strategic assessments under the Impact Assessment Act (the Act) can assess:

  1. any Government of Canada policy, plan or program – proposed or existing – that is relevant to conducting impact assessments; or
  2. any issue that is relevant for impact assessments of designated projects or classes of designated projects.

The Minister of Environment and Climate Change (the Minister) may establish a committee or authorize the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (Agency) to conduct a strategic assessment. For details on authorities and requirements, see sections 95 to 103 of the Act.

Each strategic assessment:

Impact assessments of designated projects must consider relevant strategic assessments.

What can a strategic assessment do?

Strategic assessments for common issues in impact assessment

Issues may arise across impact assessments, but they may be difficult to address at the project level or go beyond what a single proponent can manage. Strategic assessments may be used to address these common issues, such as recurring challenges related to managing a particular effect of a project.

In this case, a strategic assessment could help:

Strategic assessments for broader policy issues relevant to impact assessment

In these cases, a strategic assessment could look at a broader emerging or ongoing federal policy issue that is relevant to impact assessment. For example, a strategic assessment could assess how federal regulators might regulate a new sector. The assessment could help identify challenges the regulatory approach could create for future impact assessments, and how those challenges could be managed.

A strategic assessment may also inform the federal government on ongoing policy issues that are relevant to impact assessment. Examples include issues that:

How are strategic assessments conducted?

The following presents common milestones of strategic assessments. Specific steps and the details of each milestone are determined on a case-by-case basis.

  1. Minister decides to conduct a strategic assessment
    • The Minister’s decision is based on a request from the public, a recommendation from the Agency, or the Minister’s view that it is appropriate to conduct a strategic assessment.
  2. Planning and engagement
    • The Agency seeks views to help design the assessment process, and identifies opportunities and approaches for participation and engagement.
  3. Draft terms of reference are issued for public comment
  4. Minister issues the final terms of reference
    • Within the terms of reference, the Minister establishes a committee or authorizes the Agency to conduct the strategic assessment.
  5. Strategic assessment is conducted according to the terms of reference
    • The specific activities for the assessment are determined on a case-by-case basis, and informed by early engagement activities.
  6. Draft strategic assessment report is issued for public comment
  7. Final strategic assessment report is submitted to the Minister

The Agency provides the Minister with advice on whether to undertake a strategic assessment. This advice is based on many considerations, including relevance to conducting impact assessment and the need for strategic-level direction, action or decisions to address an issue.

The Minister then determines if the Agency or a committee of independent experts will lead the assessment. The Agency typically leads strategic assessments focused on addressing common issues in impact assessment. Committees typically lead strategic assessments when external expertise and advice is needed, when multiple jurisdictions are involved, or if there is a high degree of public concern around the issue.

What are the important principles and components?

The following principles and components are important for all strategic assessments:

For more information about strategic assessments, see the Policy Framework for Strategic Assessment under the Impact Assessment Act.

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