Section 22 – Factors to be considered descriptions

This document is for information purposes only. This document 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 (IAA) or its regulations. In the event of an inconsistency between this document and the IAA or its regulations, the IAA and its regulations would prevail.

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

Section 22 of the Impact Assessment Act outlines the factors that must be considered during impact assessments. See below for descriptions of each and links to policy and guidance documents that provide further context.

22 (1) The impact assessment of a designated project, whether it is conducted by the Agency or a review panel, must take into account the following factors:

Factor to be considered (sec 22) Description

(a) the changes to the environment or to health, social or economic conditions and the positive and negative consequences of these changes that are likely to be caused by the carrying out of the designated project, including

Changes to environmental, health, social, and economic conditions must be taken into account in the impact assessment. The assessment should take a holistic perspective to understand both positive and adverse effects and the interaction between effects.

The environment can include the atmosphere, soil, wetlands, marine areas, vegetation, animals, fish, and birds. Health conditions can include physical health, mental health, and social well-being, as well as determinants of health such as access to health services. Social conditions can include the components that define a community at the household, workplace, and community/regional levels; physical assets including housing, services, institutions, and locations of cultural importance; and the feelings and perceptions of a community. Economic conditions can include main local industries, opportunities for small businesses, tax revenue, employment rates, wages, training opportunities, consumer prices, and housing costs. Economic effects may be direct, indirect, or induced.

(i) the effects of malfunctions or accidents that may occur in connection with the designated project;

A malfunction in the context of impact assessment is a failure of a piece of equipment, a device, or a system to operate as intended. An accident is an unexpected and unintended interaction of a project component or activity with environmental, health-related, social, or economic conditions.

As part of the impact assessment process, an analysis of the risks of accidents and malfunctions must be conducted, in order to determine the potential effects of the risks, and present measures to be used in the case of an emergency. The characteristics of the project, the capacity for mitigation, and the level of concern expressed by the public and Indigenous groups, among other factors, will be considered when conducting the risk analysis.

(ii) any cumulative effects that are likely to result from the designated project in combination with other physical activities that have been or will be carried out;

Cumulative effects are defined as changes to the environment, health, social and economic conditions as a result of the project’s residual effects combined with the existence of other past, present and reasonably foreseeable physical activities.

When assessing cumulative effects, the areas of focus, timeframe, and geography of the assessment should be determined through consultation with stakeholders, federal authorities, regulators, the public, and Indigenous groups during the Planning Phase. The assessment must include consideration of cumulative effects to the rights of Indigenous peoples and Indigenous cultures. The cumulative effects assessment should also consider the results of any relevant regional or strategic assessment, which may provide valuable context.

To learn more, read the Assessing Cumulative Environmental Effects under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 operational policy statement. The Agency will be updating this guidance to reflect the requirements of the Impact Assessment Act. Meanwhile, the existing guidance continues to apply under the Impact Assessment Act and can inform the approach to considering cumulative effects related to environment, health, social and economic conditions.

(iii) the result of any interaction between those effects

Environmental, health, social and economic effects are often interrelated and complex. In order to consider properly the interactions among effects, a “systems” approach can be used. A systems analysis involves examining the relationships among the environmental, health, social and economic valued components and effects. Systems are dynamic and change over time; they are greater than the sum of their parts.

A systems approach will allow for attention on interactions and facilitate a more complete understanding of project effects. The degree of interconnectedness within systems and/or subsystems varies greatly; the interconnectedness may be very intricate and tight or quite loose and indirect.

(b) mitigation measures that are technically and economically feasible and that would mitigate any adverse effects of the designated project;

Mitigation measures eliminate, reduce, control or offset the adverse effects of a project. This could also include replacement, restoration, or compensation in response to any damage caused by the effects. “Technically feasible” means that the engineering, design, materials, and techniques used to implement the measure are available and known to work. “Economically feasible” means that they must not be prohibitively costly.

Proposed mitigation measures must be reviewed during the assessment process, and modifications or additions made if required. The mitigation measures considered appropriate by the Minister will be included as conditions to project approval with which the Proponent must comply.

(c) the impact that the designated project may have on any Indigenous group and any adverse impact that the designated project may have on the rights of the Indigenous peoples of Canada recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982;

The potential impacts that the designated project may have on Indigenous peoples must be taken into account in an impact assessment. These could include changes to environmental, health, social, and economic conditions, as per (a) above. For each Indigenous group that may be affected by the project, the analysis should identify the likely potential positive and negative impacts that may be caused by a project, both directly and indirectly. For example, changes to the environment caused directly by a project may in turn have additional health, social and economic impacts on an Indigenous group due to their use of the land and resources being altered as a result of the environmental changes.

An impact assessment must also take into account any adverse impacts that the project may have on the rights of Indigenous peoples. These rights, including Aboriginal and treaty rights, are recognized and affirmed in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. On an international scale, the rights of Indigenous peoples are affirmed in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada is committed to implementing within the context of the Canadian constitution.

For each Indigenous group that may be affected, the assessment must identify and explain the potential adverse impacts on the group’s ability to exercise its rights. The assessment should consider the potential impacts on rights in context for each Indigenous group, and be informed by consultation with the rights holders. An adverse impact on an ability to exercise a right could be a reduced ability to hunt or fish due to effects of the project, or reduced access to a spiritually significant site on traditional territory.

To learn more, read the Policy Context: Assessment of Potential Impacts on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Guidance: Assessment of Potential Impacts on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

(d) the purpose of and need for the designated project;

The Purpose of the project is what is to be achieved by carrying out the project. The “need for” the project is the opportunity that the project is intended to satisfy or the problem it is intended to solve. That is, the “need for” establishes the justification or rationale for the project.

In its Initial Project Description, the proponent submits a statement on the “purpose of” and “need for” the designated project. The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada leads engagement with participants and prepares a Summary of Issues raised, including on the “need for” and “purpose of” the project. For the Detailed Project Description, the proponent submits updated information on the “purpose of” and “need for” the project.

The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada or Review Panel engages with Indigenous groups, federal authorities and lifecycle regulators, other jurisdictions, and the public on the proponent’s Impact Statement, including any information on the “need for” and purpose of” the project. The “need for” and “purpose of” provide context for a public interest determination to be made by the Minister or Governor in Council.

To learn more, read the Policy Context: Addressing "Need for", "Purpose of", "Alternatives to" and "Alternative means" and the Guidance: "Need for", "Purpose of", "Alternatives to" and "Alternative means".

(e) alternative means of carrying out the designated project that are technically and economically feasible, including through the use of best available technologies, and the effects of those means;

“Alternative means” are the various technically and economically feasible ways that would allow a designated project and its activities to be carried out.

In its Initial Project Description, the proponent provides a list of potential “alternative means” that it is considering, including through the use of best available technologies (BATs). The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada then leads engagement with participants and prepares a Summary of Issues raised, including on the “alternative means”. For the Detailed Project Description, the proponent provides a description of potential “alternative means”. Where further assessment is warranted, the Agency will include “alternative means” in the Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines, and the proponent will be required to conduct an assessment in conformity with these guidelines. This information is then provided as part of the Impact Statement.

The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada or Review Panel engages with Indigenous groups, federal authorities and lifecycle regulators, other jurisdictions, and the public on the proponent’s Impact Statement, including any information on “alternative means”. The “alternative means” assessment provides context for the Minister or Governor in Council to make a public interest determination on the project.

To learn more, read the Policy Context: Addressing "Need for", "Purpose of", "Alternatives to" and "Alternative means" and the Guidance: "Need for", "Purpose of", "Alternatives to" and "Alternative means".

(f) any alternatives to the designated project that are technically and economically feasible and are directly related to the designated project;

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

In its Initial Project Description, the proponent provides a list of potential “alternatives to” that it is considering that are directly related to the project. The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada then leads engagement with participants and prepares a Summary of Issues raised, including on these “alternatives to”. For the Detailed Project Description, the proponent provides a description of potential “alternatives to”. Where further assessment is warranted, the Agency will include “alternatives to” in the Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines, and the proponent will be required to conduct an assessment in conformity with these guidelines. This information is then provided as part of the Impact Statement.

The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada or Review Panel engages with Indigenous groups, federal authorities and lifecycle regulators, other jurisdictions, and the public on the proponent’s Impact Statement, including any information on “alternatives to”. The “alternatives to” assessment provides context for the Minister or Governor in Council to make a public interest determination on the project.

To learn more, read the Policy Context: Addressing "Need for", "Purpose of", "Alternatives to" and "Alternative means" and the Guidance: "Need for", "Purpose of", "Alternatives to" and "Alternative means".

(g) Indigenous knowledge provided with respect to the designated project;

The consideration of Indigenous knowledge is mandatory where Indigenous knowledge has been provided.

There is no one universally accepted definition of Indigenous knowledge, as Indigenous knowledge systems vary between Indigenous groups. In general, for the purposes of impact assessment, Indigenous knowledge is considered as a holistic body of knowledge built up by a group of Indigenous people through generations of living in close contact with the land. Indigenous knowledge is cumulative and dynamic. It builds upon the historic experiences of a people and adapts to social, economic, environmental, spiritual and political change. The process of including Indigenous knowledge in the impact assessment process needs to be based on a foundation of respect for the worldview of Indigenous peoples.

To learn more, read the Guidance: Consideration of Indigenous Knowledge in Impact Assessment and Guidance: Practices for Protecting Confidential Indigenous Knowledge Impact Assessment.

(h) the extent to which the designated project contributes to sustainability;

Sustainability means 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.

Sustainability is contextual, tied to human-ecological systems and is project dependent. It is important to understand different perspectives and values of communities and Indigenous groups involved in an impact assessment, in order to properly assess the project’s contribution to sustainability. There may be different perspectives or values in or among different groups and communities.

A sustainability analysis considers the potential effects of a project through the application of sustainability principles: considering the interconnectedness and interdependence of human-ecological systems; considering the well-being of present and future generations; considering positive effects and reducing adverse effects of a designated project; and applying the precautionary principle and considering uncertainty and risk of irreversible harm.

To learn more, read the Guidance: Considering the Extent to which a Project Contributes to Sustainability and Framework: Implementation of the Sustainability Guidance.

(i) the extent to which the effects of the designated project hinder or contribute to the Government of Canada’s ability to meet its environmental obligations and its commitments in respect of climate change;

“Environmental obligations” refers to obligations applicable to the Government of Canada in domestic and international law in relation to the protection of the natural environment. Canada has a number of obligations related to the environment. For example, the obligations include those set by the International Joint Commission as it carries out the provisions of the Canada-US Boundary Waters Treaty which is relevant to projects that could affect Canada-US boundary waters.

“Commitments in respect of climate change” are set out in legally binding and non-binding domestic and international instruments. These include those set out in the international Paris Agreement and those articulated domestically in the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.

Each impact assessment should consider the key Government of Canada environmental obligations and commitments in respect of climate change that are relevant to the effects of the specific designated project and that could substantively inform decision-making.

To learn more, read the Policy Context: Considering Environmental Obligations and Commitments in Respect of Climate Change under the Impact Assessment Act.

(j) any change to the designated project that may be caused by the environment;

The impact assessment must consider how environmental conditions could affect the project, as well as how likely those conditions are to occur. These conditions could include flooding, drought, ice jams, iceberg impacts, permafrost conditions, landslides, tsunamis, avalanches, erosion, subsidence, fire, outflow conditions and seismic events.

The assessment must also examine how effects on the project could in turn result in effects to environmental, health, social and economic conditions.

(k) the requirements of the follow-up program in respect of the designated project

The purpose of a follow-up program is to verify the accuracy of the impact assessment predictions and determine the effectiveness of the mitigation measures that were put in place.

Follow-up is typically required in situations where the project involves a new or unproven technology or new or unproven mitigation measures, it is located in a sensitive environmental setting, or there is some uncertainty about the conclusions of impact assessment on a particular valued component.

(l) considerations related to Indigenous cultures raised with respect to the designated project;

Considerations related to Indigenous culture raised with respect to the designated project must be considered in the impact assessment process. If a designated project has the potential to positively or adversely impact the ability of an Indigenous group or community to maintain and/or to transmit its culture to future generations, the assessment should identify and explain these considerations.

Cultural considerations goes beyond impacts on culture. It captures consideration of Indigenous world views, Indigenous laws, and values. It is not just about looking at what impacts to assess, but also about how to assess the impacts.

To learn more, read the Policy Context: Assessment of Potential Impacts on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Guidance: Assessment of Potential Impacts on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

(m) community knowledge provided with respect to the designated project;

Community knowledge refers to knowledge based on empirical evidence that is gathered by a community through long-term experience. It is usually specific to the community’s context. Community can mean local residents, those using the area for recreation, or groups with shared knowledge of the area (such as naturalists or hunters).

Community knowledge may be received during the impact assessment process’ public comment periods and can also be sought proactively by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, a review panel, the proponent, or other participants in an impact assessment. It can help provide missing information about the area, give a clearer picture of local concerns, and identify impacts that would otherwise not be considered.

(n) comments received from the public;

Public participation is an essential part of an open, informed and meaningful impact assessment process. Public participation activities are built into the process to solicit input from the public through a variety of methods, such as online comment periods or in-person events.

Comments received could cover any number of topics including, but not limited to, the other factors to be considered in section 22, and support for or concerns about the project. It is important that the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada or review panel consider all comments received from the public to inform the impact assessment and decision-making.

To learn more, read the Interim Framework: Public Participation Under the Impact Assessment Act, the Interim Guidance: Public Participation under the Impact Assessment Act, and the Public Participation in Impact Assessment fact sheet.

(o) comments from a jurisdiction that are received in the course of consultations conducted under section 21;

Section 21 of the Impact Assessment Act requires the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, or the Minister in the case of an assessment referred to a review panel, to offer to consult and cooperate with any jurisdiction that has powers, duties or functions in relation to an impact assessment of the designated project. Jurisdictions include provinces, Indigenous governing bodies, foreign states, international organizations of states (such as the International Boundary Commission), or certain federal authorities that regulate designated projects (such as the Canadian Energy Regulator and the Canadian Transportation Agency). When such consultations occur, comments from jurisdictions must be considered in the impact assessment.

Jurisdictions’ comments will strengthen the impact assessment through unique perspectives. For example, provincial governments will have valuable expertise related to areas of provincial jurisdiction which can help inform the assessment of effects related to areas of federal jurisdiction. Provincial governments may also obtain feedback from the public or Indigenous communities through their own processes, which is likely to include comments related to both provincial and federal areas of jurisdiction.

(p) any relevant assessment referred to in section 92, 93 or 95;

Impact assessments must take into account any regional assessment or strategic assessment that is completed under the Impact Assessment Act and that is relevant to the location of a designated project or the type of project activities undertaken as part of the designated project. The completion of a relevant regional assessment or strategic assessment is not required prior to undertaking an impact assessment of a designated project. Regional assessment and strategic assessment are tools that can inform impact assessments in multiple ways, including by providing baseline information, identifying important mitigation measures, or informing development planning.

To learn more about regional assessment, read the Regional Assessment under the Impact Assessment Act fact sheet, read about the Regional Assessment of Offshore Oil and Gas Exploratory Drilling East of Newfoundland and Labrador, and read about the Regional Assessment of the Ring of Fire Area.

To learn more about strategic assessment, read about the Strategic Assessment of Climate Change and the Strategic Assessment of Thermal Coal Mining.

(q) any assessment of the effects of the designated project that is conducted by or on behalf of an Indigenous governing body and that is provided with respect to the designated project;

An Indigenous community may undertake, or have already completed, an assessment of a project under its own laws or other process. If the findings of an Indigenous-led assessment are shared with the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada in relation to the designated project, then that assessment must be considered in the federal impact assessment. An Indigenous-led assessment may also be undertaken in collaboration with the Agency as part of an impact assessment under the Impact Assessment Act.

An assessment of a project by an Indigenous governing body could involve examining impacts specifically on its territory, rights, or its community’s well-being, and could take various forms, such as a traditional land use study or a community health assessment. Assessments by an Indigenous governing body may be developed for a specific designated project, or have a broader focus relevant to the designated project and the community’s territory. Of particular note, the scope of an assessment by an Indigenous governing body could be broader than the scope of factors under the Impact Assessment Act and the consideration of the assessment by an Indigenous governing body may not be limited by the scope of factors under the Impact Assessment Act.

To learn more, read the Guidance: Collaboration with Indigenous Peoples in Impact Assessment.

(r) any study or plan that is conducted or prepared by a jurisdiction — or an Indigenous governing body not referred to in paragraph (f) or (g) of the definition jurisdiction in section 2 — that is in respect of a region related to the designated project and that has been provided with respect to the project;

Jurisdictions, as set out under the Impact Assessment Act, may study impacts within a region or create plans to inform aspects of development within a region. Examples could include provincial land-use plans or federal initiatives such as the Oceans Protection Plan.

These studies or plans, which are undertaken in respect of a particular geographic region, can provide important context, data and information that can support robust, evidence-based impact assessments. Where a study or plan is provided by a jurisdiction or an Indigenous governing body, the study or plan must be taken into account in the impact assessment under the Impact Assessment Act. Studies or plans may provide a wide range of useful information for consideration and may help inform or support the analysis of other section 22 factors or the public interest decision.

(s) the intersection of sex and gender with other identity factors;

To understand how projects may impact diverse groups of people differently, an impact assessment must apply gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) to the assessment of positive and adverse project effects.

GBA+ is an analytical framework that asks important questions about how projects may affect diverse groups. It considers the potential for disproportionate effects based on sex and gender, as the name suggests, in addition to the potential for disproportionate effects on groups represented by the “+” component of “GBA+”, which includes groups identified by age, place of residence, ethnicity, socio-economic status, employment status or disability.

To learn more, read the Guidance: Gender-based Analysis Plus in Impact Assessment and the Gender-based Analysis Plus in Impact Assessment fact sheet.

(t) any other matter relevant to the impact assessment that the Agency requires to be taken into account

During the early stages of an impact assessment, the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada or review panel may become aware of other matters of importance that should be taken into account in the assessment. These could be raised during public comment periods, during consultation with Indigenous groups, through expertise provided by federal authorities, or through communication with the proponent.

Because impact assessments are project-specific, the nature of a project may require factors be considered in addition to those listed above. The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada will clearly and thoroughly describe these other factors in the Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines, so that proponents are informed early on.

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