Our role in strategic environmental assessments

What is a strategic environmental assessment?

A Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is a comprehensive process for evaluating the environmental effects of a proposed policy, plan, program, or other strategic-level initiative.

This assessment process under the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals requires that departments and agencies conduct a SEA when a proposal that may cause positive or negative environmental effects is submitted to a Minister or Cabinet for approval.

How is it different?

SEA is a separate process from the environmental assessment of projects required under the Impact Assessment Act, Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012) and the processes in Canada’s north.

Strategic environmental assessments can be used as a tool to streamline future project-level assessment. They provide the means to incorporate environmental considerations early in decision-making, along with any economic and social considerations. When conducted early in the planning stage, a SEA can identify potential negative environmental effects to be avoided or mitigated and highlight potential environmental benefits to help inform the proposal development.

How it works at NRCan

At NRCan, there is a three-stage system for ensuring a clear and iterative process while meeting the requirements set out in the Cabinet Directive.

  1. Preliminary Strategic Environmental Assessment (Pre-SEA) – This process assists in determining the appropriate level of SEA that is required.
  2. Strategic Environmental Assessment Scan (SEA Scan) – This process helps to determine the importance of the environmental effects likely to arise from a proposal, if it were implemented.
  3. Detailed Strategic Environmental Assessment (Detailed SEA) – This process involves a comprehensive analysis of both positive and negative important environmental effects of a proposal, if it were implemented

Public statements

NRCan is required by the Cabinet Directive to prepare a public statement when an assessment of environmental effects has been conducted through a detailed SEA. The purpose is to demonstrate that environmental considerations have been integrated into the decision-making process. Departments determine the content and extent of the public statement according to the circumstances of each case. Upon the official announcement of the initiative, NRCan will post a public statement at the following page summarizing the detailed SEA results.

Public Statements for Detailed SEAs