On April 5, 2017, the Expert Panel appointed by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Catherine McKenna, to review the federal environmental assessment processes released its final report. The Panel had been consulting the public, stakeholders, and Indigenous groups since last August to determine how to develop a more effective and fairer environmental assessment process.
The report endorses broad changes be made to the current regime. At the outset, the report calls for "environment assessments" to be replaced with "impact assessments", in order to better reflect a more comprehensive review process that considers all impacts on society rather than only environmental effects. The report makes a number of recommendations to that end, including:
- the creation of mechanisms that ensure that decisions are made based on the best available scientific data;
- the implementation of measures that ensure Indigenous Peoples and the public are considered and involved at all stages of an assessment;
- the establishment of a single authority to decide upon assessments;
- the development of outcome-based sustainability targets that will be met through compliance and enforcement measures; and
- the establishment of a tribunal to facilitate dispute-resolution processes.
The government is currently reviewing the report and seeking input from the public. Those interested in reading the report and providing comments to the government can do so at LetsTalkEa.ca. The deadline for submissions is May 5, 2017. Once the government reviews the report and all public input it receives, it will consult Indigenous groups and stakeholders over the coming months before determining what legislative, regulatory, and policy changes will be made.