Step 1: Early Planning

Projects would now go through an early planning and engagement phase where potential impacts are discussed with the public and with Indigenous peoples at the outset.

Objectives:

  • Better project design and greater clarity for project proponents
  • Enable early discussions between the proponent, Indigenous groups, stakeholders, and governments
  • Up-front recognition of Indigenous rights
  • Enhanced opportunities for cooperation and harmonization with provinces, territories and Indigenous governments to achieve “one project, one assessment”

Key Actions during this Phase:

Proponent:

  • Prepares Initial Project Description
  • May undertake additional engagement and/or participate in Agency-led engagement
  • Prepares Detailed Project Description reflecting feedback provided by the Agency
  • Seeks input from Indigenous peoples, local communities, and others early in project planning

Agency:

  • Reviews Initial Project Description against requirements
  • Engages with Indigenous groups, expert federal departments and regulators, stakeholders, local communities, governments and the public on potential impacts to assess and studies required
  • Consults with other jurisdictions
  • Provides participant and capacity funding to Indigenous groups
  • Determines if an impact assessment is required

Indigenous Groups:

  • Identify key issues of concern including potential impacts on rights and people
  • Indicate interest in leading part or all of assessment
  • Participate in engagement sessions
  • Co-develop Indigenous Engagement Plan

Other Jurisdictions:

  • Identify opportunities to cooperate and harmonize processes

Overview

In the early planning phase, the proponent must provide the Agency with an initial description 10 of a proposed designated project. This initial description would allow the Agency to determine whether the proposed project is a designated project under the Impact Assessment Act. The initial description would also include sufficient detail to ensure that information is provided early enough to potentially affected communities and Indigenous groups so that the design of the project may be meaningfully influenced through the proponent’s engagement with those groups.

Section 10

(1) The proponent of a designated project must provide the Agency with an initial description of the project that includes the information prescribed by regulations (…)

The Impact Assessment Act requires the Agency to provide feedback 14 to the proponent based on the results of consultations with other jurisdictions and with potentially affected Indigenous groups. Upon receipt of Agency feedback, the proponent proceeds with the next step in the planning phase by completing a project description that is more detailed than the initial project description. The detailed project description would include updated information from the initial project description, demonstrating how the proponent is addressing the issues that were raised as well as information about the possible environmental, social, health and economic effects of the project which will support planning of the assessment.

The information required to support this and other phases of the assessment would be set out in regulations. The information must be sufficient for the Agency to determine whether to require an impact assessment. It is not intended to drive the proponent to prematurely undertake analysis, studies and the generation of other information that is more appropriately left to the Impact Statement preparation phase.

Regional and strategic assessments could provide additional information that would support the early planning phase including the identification of issues and information requirements.

Section 14

(1) The Agency must provide the proponent with a summary of issues with respect to the designated project that it considers relevant, including issues that are raised by the public or by any jurisdiction or Indigenous group that is consulted under section 12, and with any information or knowledge made available to it by a federal authority that the Agency considers appropriate.

Indigenous Engagement

Early engagement with Indigenous peoples would allow the Agency to facilitate early identification of issues and better inform the proponent’s evolving project design and project proposal. Processes aimed at securing consent would be developed in collaboration 155 with Indigenous peoples, with the aim to build deeper collaboration, consensus and new ways of working together.

A new Capacity Building Program would be introduced to provide longer-term financial support, outside of projectspecific participant funding, to support the development of internal capacity within Indigenous communities and organizations.

Section 155

The Agency’s objects are:

(i) to engage in consultation with the Indigenous peoples of Canada on policy issues related to this Act.

Public Participation

The Agency would also be required to provide the public with an opportunity to participate meaningfully 11 meaningfully in the planning phase. For example, the public would be invited to provide input on the proponent’s initial project description.

Section 11

The Agency must ensure that the public is provided with an opportunity to participate meaningfully in its preparations for a possible impact assessment of a designated project, including by inviting the public to provide comments within the period that it specifies.

One Project, One Assessment

The Impact Assessment Act requires the Agency to offer to consult other jurisdictions and any Indigenous group 12 that may be affected by the designated project as part of the planning phase.

An assessment of a designated project may also be required under provincial legislation or by an Indigenous jurisdiction. The Agency will work with these jurisdictions during the early planning phase as it determines whether an impact assessment is required. If an impact assessment is required, plans for the assessment would be developed in cooperation with these jurisdictions with the goal of a single assessment process that meets the requirements of the jurisdictions involved.

Section 12

For the purpose of preparing for a possible impact assessment of a designated project, the Agency must offer to consult with any jurisdiction that has powers, duties or functions in relation to an assessment of the environmental effects of the designated project and any Indigenous group that may be affected by the carrying out of the designated project.

Indigenous Jurisdiction

To enable further opportunities for “one project, one assessment”, the Act includes provisions expanding the definition of jurisdiction. This means that tools for cooperation, such as substitution, would be more broadly available to Indigenous jurisdictions. This includes Indigenous governments that have existing powers in relation to impact assessment in other legislation, such as First Nations under the First Nations Land Management Act, and Indigenous governments that may enter into agreements 114 with Canada pursuant to new regulations for Indigenous cooperation created under this Act.

The new Indigenous regulations would also provide opportunity to expand the jurisdiction of Modern Treaty bodies to take on powers to conduct assessment activities under the Act and to exercise these powers throughout treaty settlement lands 114, not only on Indigenous-owned lands.

Cooperation Agreements

The Government of Canada proposes to establish formal cooperation agreements 114 with interested jurisdictions (provincial, territorial, or Indigenous) to achieve “one project, one assessment”. These cooperation agreements would describe key principles, processes and mechanisms needed to ensure that assessment processes are implemented in an efficient and coordinated manner. Working together to clarify and integrate jurisdictional processes in pursuit of “one project, one assessment” would lead to more efficient, predictable assessments, and be central to enabling good projects to proceed and resources to get to market.

Section 114

(1) For the purposes of this Act, the Minister may

(d) if authorized by the regulations, enter into agreements or arrangements with any jurisdiction referred to in paragraph (e) or (f) of the definition jurisdiction in section 2

Section 114

(1)(d)(ii) in relation to lands, specified in the agreement or arrangement, with respect to which it does not already have powers, duties or functions in relation to an assessment of the environmental effects of a designated project

Section 114

(1) For the purpose of this Act, the Minister may

(c) enter into agreements or arrangements with any jurisdiction referred to in paragraphs (a) to (g) of the definition jurisdiction in section 2 respecting assessments of effects

Decision Regarding the Need for an Impact Assessment

At the end of the early planning phase, the Agency would need to determine 16 whether an impact assessment is required for a designated project. This decision would consider whether there may be potential adverse effects on matters under the legislative authority of Parliament or the potential for adverse effects resulting from federal decisions. The decision would consider the results of any relevant regional or strategic assessment. Consultations with other jurisdictions, Indigenous groups and input provided by the public within the time period specified by the Agency would inform this decision. Expert advice from other federal authorities, including those that may be required to make regulatory decisions about the project, would also be considered.

In addition to providing sufficient information to determine if an impact assessment is required, early engagement and planning will help inform the development documents that would be used to guide the impact assessment process:

  • Impact Assessment Cooperation Plan – This would be established between the Agency and jurisdictions on the assessment process. It may also establish harmonized timelines, when possible, with other jurisdictions. This would also include the following two plans:
    • Indigenous Engagement and Partnership Plan – This would be developed jointly with Indigenous jurisdictions and describe how Indigenous groups would be engaged throughout the assessment process and be posted on the Agency website.
    • Public Participation Plan – Developed by the Agency in consultation with others, it would outline public participation during the assessment process and be posted on the Agency website for comments.
  • Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines – This document would be developed by the Agency in consultation with others to outline the information required of the proponent in its Impact Statement. These guidelines would be posted on the Agency website for public comment before being finalized.
  • Permitting Plan – This permitting plan would be developed by the Agency in coordination with federal regulators. It would provide the proponent with an outline of the anticipated permits, licences, and authorizations required for the project. It would be posted on the Agency website.

Section 16

(1) After posting a copy of the notice on the Internet site under subsection 15(3), the Agency must, subject to section 17, decide whether an impact assessment of the designated project is required.

Time Limit

The Impact Assessment Act proposes a new timeline of up to 180 days 18 for the planning phase. It would begin when a proponent submits an initial description of the designated project to the Agency and ends when the Agency issues the notice of commencement and provides the proponent with tailored Impact Statement guidelines. The Minister would be able to extend this time limit by up to 90 days. The Governor in Council could further extend this time limit, if required.

Section 18

(1) If the Agency decides that an impact assessment of a designated project is required (…) the Agency must, within 180 days from the day on which it posts a copy of the description of the designated project (…), provide the proponent of that project with

(a) a notice of the commencement of the impact assessment of the project that sets out the information or studies that the Agency considers necessary for it to conduct the impact assessment; and

(b) any documents that are prescribed by regulations made under paragraph 112(a), including the tailored guidelines regarding the information or studies referred to in paragraph (a) and for plans for cooperation with other jurisdictions, for engagement and partnership with Indigenous peoples of Canada, for public participation and for the issuance of permits.

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