Cumulative Effects

The cumulative effects of development in a region are changes to the environment caused by a variety of activities over time.

Objectives:

  • Provide a better understanding of the “big picture” of environmental issues outside of the context of individual project assessments
  • Inform project assessments and decision-making
  • Allow jurisdictions to better manage cumulative effects of development
  • Understanding existing or potential cumulative effects on the rights and interests of Indigenous peoples

Key Actions:

Minister:

  • May initiate a regional or strategic assessment
  • Publicly respond to requests for a regional or strategic assessment to be conducted
  • Consider cumulative effects and results of regional and strategic assessments in decision-making

Jurisdictions:

  • Collaboratively propose potential regional and strategic assessments, including consulting the public, stakeholders, and Indigenous peoples
  • Inform development of national environmental frameworks

Federal Departments:

  • Launch open science and data platform
  • Provide expertise and data
  • Conduct regional assessments (terrestrial and marine)
  • Conduct strategic assessments, beginning with one on climate change

The proposed Government of Canada approach to addressing cumulative effects has four key components:

  • Integrated open data and science platform: A publicly-accessible, single window containing environmental science, knowledge and data, with tools that enable users to help understand the potential impacts of a project.
  • Regional assessments that help to guide planning and management of cumulative effects (including on biodiversity and species at risk), identify the potential impacts on the rights and interests of Indigenous peoples, and inform project assessments.
  • Strategic assessments that assess Government of Canada policies, plans, or programs to provide greater clarity and certainty as to how they apply to project assessments.
  • National environmental frameworks that integrate science to provide guidance regarding acceptable levels of impacts.

Cooperation with other jurisdictions, including Indigenous jurisdictions, and stakeholders is central to the development of this approach.

The Impact Assessment Act would support the delivery of regional and strategic assessments.

Overview

Regional Assessment

The Impact Assessment Act would enable the Minister to appoint a committee or ask the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada 92 to conduct a regional assessment 93. New provisions also require the impact assessment of designated projects to consider any relevant study or plan of a region undertaken by a jurisdiction preamble, expanding upon existing provisions in CEAA 2012 that require regional studies to be considered in the assessment of designated projects. The Government is committed to cooperative approaches with jurisdictions, including provinces, territories and Indigenous jurisdictions that have responsibilities within the region.

Other Ministers may also lead regional assessments (outside of the Impact Assessment Act) of matters over which they have responsibility.

Section 92

(1) The Minister may designate persons or classes of persons as enforcement officers or analysts for the purposes of the administration and enforcement of this Act.

Section 93

(1) If the Minister is of the opinion that it is appropriate to conduct a regional assessment of the effects of existing or future physical activities carried out in a region that is composed in part of federal lands or in a region that is entirely outside federal lands,

(a) the Minister may

(i) enter into an agreement or arrangement with any jurisdiction referred to in paragraphs (a) to (g) of the definition jurisdiction in section 2 respecting the joint establishment of a committee to conduct the assessment and the manner in which the assessment is to be conducted, or

(ii) authorize the Agency to conduct the assessment; and

(b) the Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs may enter into an agreement or arrangement referred to in paragraph (h) or (i) of that definition respecting the joint establishment of a committee to conduct the assessment and the manner in which the assessment is to be conducted.

Preamble to the Impact Assessment Act

The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of regional assessments in understanding the effects of existing or future physical activities and the importance of strategic assessments in assessing federal policies, plans or programs that are relevant to conducting impact assessments.

Strategic Assessment

The Impact Assessment Act would provide the Minister of Environment and Climate Change the ability to initiate a strategic assessment 95 led by the Agency or by a Committee. Other Ministers may also lead strategic assessments of matters over which they have responsibility. Strategic assessments provide transparent, consistent guidance to proponents, decision-makers and the public on how existing environmental frameworks would be considered in the impact assessment process. Furthermore, strategic assessments of a class of projects could allow the Government of Canada to understand the potential impacts presented by a particular type of project in order to better inform and potentially streamline individual project assessments of that project type. Stategic assessments help to understand and address cumulative effects by better aligning projects with environmental frameworks that protect different aspects of the environment, such as climate change and biodiversity. In addition, strategic assessments could help clarify and streamline information requirements by setting out the data and methodologies required. The results 102 of any relevant strategic assessment would be considered in the assessment of designated projects.

The first strategic assessment undertaken by the Government of Canada will be on climate change. It will lay out how climate change considerations will be integrated in the impact assessment process and in determining whether a project is in the public interest. This will include determining how Canada’s climate change commitments under the Paris Agreement and the Pan Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change will be considered in project reviews.

Factors to Consider in Project Assessments

The Impact Assessment Act would continue to require the consideration of cumulative effects that are likely to result from designated projects in combination with other activities that have been or would be carried out.

Section 95

The Minister may establish a committee – or authorize the Agency – to conduct an assessment of

(a) Any Government of Canada policy, plan or program – proposed or existing – that is relevant to conducting impact assessments; or

(b) Any issue that is relevant to conducting impact assessments of designated projects or a class of designated projects.

Section 102

(1) On completion of the assessment that it conducts, the committee established under section 92 or 95 or under an agreement or arrangement entered into under subparagraph 93(1)(a)(i) or paragraph 93(1)(b) or the Agency, as the case may be, must provide a report to the Minister.

(2) Subject to section 119, the report must set out how the Agency or committee, as the case may be, took into account and used any Indigenous knowledge provided with respect to the assessment.

Requests for Regional or Strategic Assessments

If the Minister receives a request that a regional or strategic assessment be conducted, the Minister must publicly respond 97 to the request, including publishing reasons for the Minister’s decision to accept or deny the request. The response must be posted on the Agency website.

Section 97

(1) The Minister must respond, with reasons and within the prescribed time limit, to any request that an assessment referred to in section 92, 93 or 95 be conducted. The Minister must ensure that his or her response is posted on the Internet site.

(2) When conducting an assessment referred to in section 92, 93 or 95, the Agency or committee, as the case may be, must take into account any scientific information and Indigenous knowledge provided with respect to the assessment.

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