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Environmental Impact Assessment

Environmental Impact Assessment

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Environmental Impact Assessment

Infrastructure Canada funding of projects is contingent upon Canada ensuring the respect of federal environmental statutory requirements. Projects submitted to Infrastructure Canada may be subject to the Impact Assessment Act, Northern Regulatory Regimes, and/or other federal environmental statutory requirements such as the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Navigable Waters Act, and the Species at Risk Act that are administered by other federal government departments.

Impact Assessment Act

Under the Impact Assessment Act (the Act), there are two types of assessments with distinct processes that can apply to projects funded by Infrastructure Canada:

  1. Designated projects: Infrastructure Canada reviews project submissions to determine whether the proposed project is likely to include physical activities listed in the Physical Activities Regulations made under the Act. If it does, Infrastructure Canada informs the proponent and refers the project to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (the Agency).

    The Agency then works with the project proponent to confirm whether the project is listed in the Physical Activities Regulations. If so, the project proponent prepares an initial project description and enters the planning phase, where the Agency determines if an impact assessment is required. The Agency leads this process, including the associated federal Indigenous consultation and accommodation process, where applicable.

    The Act also provides a discretionary authority for the Minister of Environment and Climate Change (the Minister) to designate a proposed project that is not listed in the Physical Activities Regulations, if it may cause adverse effects within federal jurisdiction or adverse direct or incidental effects, or public concerns related to those effects warrant the designation.

    The Act prohibits Infrastructure Canada from providing financial assistance that would enable a designated project to proceed unless the Agency determines an impact assessment is not required or a positive decision statement is issued following an assessment.

    More information can be found in the Practitioner’s Guide to the Impact Assessment Act

  1. Projects on federal lands: As a federal authority under the Act, Infrastructure Canada reviews project submissions to confirm whether the proposed project will take place in whole or in part on federal lands (including First Nation reserve lands). Infrastructure Canada then works with other federal government departments and the project proponent to determine whether the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects and develops appropriate mitigation measures. In addition, Infrastructure Canada may have a constitutional duty to consult and, where appropriate, accommodate Indigenous peoples should the project have an adverse impact on Aboriginal or treaty rights. These requirements must be respected before funding can be provided and works can proceed for the portion of the project located on federal lands.

    The decision of whether a project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects is based on the definition of environmental effects in section 81 of the Act, which includes changes to the environment and the impact of these changes on the Indigenous peoples of Canada and on health, social or economic conditions. To fulfill its requirements as a federal authority under section 82 of the Act, Infrastructure Canada must take into consideration the following factors:

    • Any adverse impact that the project may have on the rights of the Indigenous peoples of Canada;
    • Indigenous knowledge;
    • Community knowledge;
    • Comments received from the public (following the project being posted on the Canadian Impact Assessment Registry for a minimum of 30 days); and
    • Technically and economically feasible measures to mitigate any significant environmental effects of the project.

    As part of this process, proponents will be asked to:

    • Complete (or help Infrastructure Canada complete) a form outlining the project’s environmental effects and appropriate mitigation measures;
    • Answer questions from the public and/or Indigenous communities;
    • Conduct or assist Infrastructure Canada in conducting consultation activities with Indigenous communities potentially impacted by the project and, if applicable, provide a summary of Indigenous consultation and engagement activities;
    • Provide confirmation to Infrastructure Canada that required mitigation measures have been implemented.

    For more information, see: Projects on federal lands and outside Canada: Guidance on Sections 81 to 91 of the Impact Assessment Act -

Northern Regulatory Regimes

In Canada’s North, some regions are subject to different legislation and environmental impact assessment regimes as a result of land claim agreements and devolution processes in Northwest Territories (2014) and Yukon (2003). Projects submitted to Infrastructure Canada for funding may be subject to environmental impact assessments under these regimes. Infrastructure Canada will review project submissions and provide specific guidance to project proponents in regard to applicable environmental impact assessment processes. The main legislation and environmental assessment regimes that can apply to projects in northern Canada are:

In Nunavut, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement governs environmental impact assessments and the Nunavut Impact Review Board is responsible for both the screening and impact assessment of proposed major projects in the Nunavut Settlement Area. The Board uses both local and traditional knowledge (Inuit Qaujimajatuangit) and recognized scientific methods to assess the impacts of proposed projects and make recommendations and decisions about which projects may proceed.

In Yukon, environmental impact assessments are done through an environmental screening assessment carried out by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board, an independent arms-length body established under the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act.

In the Mackenzie Valley area of the Northwest Territories, environmental impact assessments are governed by the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, and the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board is the responsible co-management board.

In the Inuvialuit Settlement Region of the Northwest Territories, environmental impact assessments are governed by the Inuvialuit Final Agreement and the Impact Assessment Act. Some projects in the region may trigger a review under both; therefore, the process may be coordinated so that a single environmental impact assessment meets the legal requirements. The Environmental Impact Screening Committee conducts preliminary screenings of development activities and the Environmental Impact Review Board conducts environmental impact assessments of proposed developments that have the potential of significant adverse environmental effects.

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