ARCHIVED - Sustainable Development

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Sustainable Development Strategy, 1997-2001
Safeguarding our Assets, Securing our Future

NRCan's Contribution to Sustainable Development

Natural Resources Canada provides leading-edge science, knowledge and expertise to position Canada as a world leader in the sustainable development of its land, energy, forest and mineral resources, and a quality producer of resource-related products, technologies, services and research.

Our Business

In Canada, the Constitution gives the provinces jurisdiction over much of the land and resources. As a result of the 1996 Speech from the Throne, the government has withdrawn from areas of forestry and mining that are more appropriately the responsibility of others. The federal role in promoting the sustainable development of natural resources complements the work of the provinces, industry and the public (Table 2).

NRCan provides a national and international perspective, along with scientific and policy expertise, to foster a resource sector which is environmentally responsible, economically viable and globally competitive (See Appendix D: NRCan Departmental Profile). The federal government's national and international responsibilities related to natural resources include: international and inter-provincial trade; science and technology; federal regulatory duties; Aboriginal issues; federal Crown lands and offshore; environment; and, national statistics.

The Department and Crown agencies also work to protect public health and safety in areas including nuclear energy and explosives, and with respect to natural hazards such as earthquakes. Crown agencies are not, however, included as part of the action plans in this strategy.

NRCan provides services to Canadians in four principal areas by:

  1. Conducting leading-edge science to generate and transfer the ideas, knowledge and technologies Canada needs to use its resources wisely and efficiently, reduce costs, protect the environment and help Canadians create new products and services.
  2. Ensuring that federal policies and regulations - in areas such as the environment, trade, the economy, science and technology, Aboriginal matters and Canada lands - enhance the contribution of natural resources to Canada's economy, while protecting the environment and the health and safety of Canadians.
  3. Building a national knowledge infrastructure on Canada's land and resources, providing Canadians with easy access to the latest economic, environmental and scientific information from a variety of sources.
  4. Promoting Canada's international interests in cooperation with international agencies and other nations to meet our global commitments, and to maintain access to world markets for Canadian products, technologies and services.

A Commitment to Partnerships

The challenge of sustainable development requires action not just by governments, but by industry, communities and individuals.

The Whitehorse Mining Initiative, for instance, is the result of joint efforts of the mining industry, unions, Aboriginal peoples, the environmental and academic communities as well as federal, provincial and territorial governments. The Initiative used a non-adversarial approach to develop a strategic vision to address issues surrounding the sustainable development of Canada's mineral resources.

Consensus has been the cornerstone of the Model Forests Network which includes 11 sites covering more than 6 million hectares. This initiative involves over 250 organizations in a national experiment to design and test new forestry practices and tools, all of which are being developed through multi-stakeholder approaches to decision-making.

Meeting Canada's climate change goals depends on productive partnerships. More than 600 companies have joined the Energy Innovators program to promote greater energy efficiency in the commercial and industrial sectors.

NRCan is strengthening partnerships within government as well. For example, four federal departments - Agriculture and Agri-food, Environment, Fisheries and Oceans and NRCan - have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Sustainable Development. The departments are coordinating their science and technology efforts to ensure their programs are better coordinated, more efficient and cost effective. The Intergovernmental Geoscience Accord, between the Geological Survey of Canada and the provinces/territories, ensures the best possible understanding of the nation's geology through a coordinated effort.

During consultations on this strategy, two concerns were expressed strongly and repeatedly (Appendix C).

The first emphasized the need for greater cooperation among federal departments, as well as with provincial agencies, on sustainable development issues. The second concern was the need for NRCan to build better and more open partnerships with environmental and Aboriginal groups.

As part of its sustainable development strategy, NRCan is committed to further expanding its stakeholder base beyond government and business interests. For example, NRCan is broadening the membership of its Ministerial advisory bodies to include environmental organizations.

Another message put forward during the consultations was that, given NRCan's non-operational role in the management of natural resources and its strong scientific knowledge, the Department should act as an honest broker in providing balanced information and in facilitating consensus among the different views that Canadians hold about the future for their natural resources. To achieve this, it was suggested that NRCan should take more action to make its information available to Canadians, and to develop more open consultative processes.

Table 2
Roles and Responsibilities - Canada's Natural Resources
Federal Provincial Private Sector Public
  • National economic policies and taxation
  • International relations and agreements
  • Trade (International and inter-provincial)
  • Northern Canada, federal lands and offshore
  • Indian lands and Aboriginal land claims
  • Wildlife - migratory birds, fisheries habitat and oceans
  • National Statistics
  • Science and Technology (in the national interest)
  • Environmental protection (International and inter-provincial)
  • Nuclear energy policy, research and regulation
  • National Parks
  • Provincial economic policies and taxation
  • Land use planning and allocation
  • Resource ownership and royalties
  • Resource management
    - regulation and licencing
    - allocation and control of harvesting and extraction
    - conservation
    - protection
  • Aboriginal land claims
  • Fish and wildlife
  • Provincial parks
  • Environmental protection (provincial and local)
  • Science and technology
  • Provincial/territorial statistics and resource inventories
  • Investment
  • Payment of taxes and royalties
  • Operational resource management and planning
  • Resource exploration, extraction and harvesting
  • Resource processing and manufacturing
  • Pollution prevention and waste management
  • Product development and marketing
  • Research and development
  • Private land stewardship
  • Social values
  • Input into decision-making
  • Consumer choices and purchasing
  • Political choices and advocacy
  • Investment
  • Recreation
  • Private land stewardship