Environmental Assessment

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012) enables an approach to environmental assessment (EA) that responds to Canada’s current economic and environmental context by focusing on projects with the greatest potential for significant adverse environmental effects, referred to as designated projects. CEAA 2012 and its regulations establish the legislative basis for the federal practice of environmental assessment in most regions of Canada.

The purpose of CEAA 2012 is to:

  • Protect components of the environment that are within federal legislative authority from significant adverse environmental effects caused by a designated project;
  • Ensure that designated projects  are considered and carried out in a careful and precautionary manner when the exercise of a power or performance of a duty or function by a federal authority is required for the project to proceed;
  • Promote cooperation and coordination between federal and provincial governments;
  • Promote communication and cooperation with Aboriginal peoples;
  • Ensure that opportunities are provided for meaningful public participation;
  • Ensure that environmental assessments are completed in a timely manner;
  • Ensure that projects proposed to be carried out on federal lands and projects that are outside of Canada that the federal government intends to carry out or fund, are considered in a careful and precautionary manner in order to avoid significant adverse environmental effects;
  • Encourage federal authorities to take action in a manner that promotes sustainable development; and
  • Encourage further studies of the cumulative effects of physical activities in a region and the consideration of the study results in environmental assessments.

For environmental assessments that are commenced under CEAA 2012, the responsible authority with respect to a designated project is:

  • the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (for projects it regulates, such as nuclear projects);
  • the National Energy Board (for projects it regulates, such as international and interprovincial pipelines and transmission lines); or,
  • the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (for all other designated projects).

Environmental Assessment in the North

In Canada’s three territories, specific legislation imposes EA obligations on Canada - the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act / Nunavut Planning and Project Assessment Act, the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, and the Yukon Environment and Socioeconomic Assessment Act.

The Northern Projects Management Office (NPMO) was established to improve the environmental review process for proposed major resource development and infrastructure projects in northern Canada. NPMO has a mandate to improve the timeliness, predictability and transparency of northern regulatory processes to foster a more stable and attractive investment climate in the territories.

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

SEA is a requirement for all federal government departments and agencies to fulfill in accordance with instructions from the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals (Cabinet Directive) and its accompanying Guidelines for Implementation.