An Overview of the Impact Assessment Act

AuthorMeinha rd Doelle an d A John Sinclair
 3
An Overview of the Impact Assessment Act
Meinhard Doelle and A John Sinclair
As discussed in the preceding chapters, the federal legislation that
underpins impact assessment (IA) in Canada has continued to evolve
and most recently has taken the form of the Impact Assessment Act (IAA).1
The reform process that led to the enactment of the IAA is discussed in
more detail in Chapter 4. The process started with mandate letters from
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to his new Cabinet in 2015.2 In 2016, the
minister of environment and climate change struck the Multi-Inter-
est Advisory Committee, composed of representatives from Indigen-
ous, industry, and environmental non-governmental organizations, to
advise her and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency on the
new Act. The minister then established the four-person Expert Panel
for the Review of Environmental Assessment Processes (Expert Panel) to
consult the public and report on how to restore public trust in IA and
1 SC 2019, c 28, s 1.
2 See, for example, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Catherine McKenna, Minister of
Environment and Climate Change, “Minister of Environment and Climate Change
Mandate Letter” (12 November 2015), online: Oce of the Prime Minister
     54
otherwise meet the stated goals of the reform eort. The government
followed the Panel’s 2017 report with a discussion paper in June 2017.3
The formal legislative process started in the fall of 2017 with a
memorandum to Cabinet seeking approval to dra new legislation.
Once the bill was introduced in February 2018, it was referred to pub-
lic hearings held by the House of Commons Standing Committee on
Environment and Sustainable Development, made up of members of
Parliament from all parties. The bill passed third reading in June 2018
and was sent to the Senate for review and approval. The Senate Standing
Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources held
public hearings in early 2019 and proposed further amendments, many
of which would have weakened the bill and were rejected by the House
of Commons. The government passed the bill just before the end of
the last Parliamentary session on June 21, before the fall 2019 federal
election. The Act came into force in August 2019 along with regulations
critical for its implementation.
The purpose of this chapter is to oer a high-level overview of the
IAA. Many elements of the Act are considered in detail in Part II of
this book. Here we oer an overview of the key components of the IAA,
organized around ve key elements of IA regime design: triggering the
assessment process, scoping, process options and design, decision mak-
ing, and post-decision follow-up.4 It is important to note at the outset
that although the focus in this chapter is on the assessment process for
designated projects, the Act includes other important processes that are
considered in some detail in Part II of the book. A separate part of the
Act deals with projects on federal lands and outside Canada. In addition,
there are separate provisions for regional and strategic assessments.5
3 Canada, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Environmental and Regulatory
Reviews: Discussion Paper, (Ottawa: Environment and Climate Change Canada, June
2017), online: Government of Canada
4 See Meinhard Doelle, The Federal Environmental Assessment Process: A Guide and
Critique (Markham, ON: LexisNexis Canada, 2008); Kevin Hanna, ed, Environmental
Impact Assessment: Practice and Participation, 3d ed (Don Mills, ON: Oxford University
Press, 2016) at Part II; Bram Noble, Environmental Impact Assessment: A Guide to Princi-
ples and Practice, 3d ed (Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press, 2015).
5 The requirements for projects on federal lands and projects outside Canada are
discussed in detail in Chapter 18, and separate processes for regional and strategic
assessments are considered in chapters 11 and 17.

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