Environmental assessment is a process used to predict and mitigate the adverse environmental effects of a project before it is started. It is a planning tool that provides decision makers with the information they need to ensure all approved projects support a healthy, sustainable environment for present and future generations. It is now part of public decision making at all levels of government in Canada.
Environment Canada participates in federal environmental assessments of projects subject to review, providing expert advice on environmental impacts and mitigation measures. Environment Canada also participates in provincial and regional environmental assessments as requested.
In the south (and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region in the Northwest Territories), the Environmental Assessment work is governed by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012 (CEAA 2012). The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is responsible for administering the Act, maintaining a Public Registry of environmental assessments, and providing leadership and coordination of the federal process where they are the Responsible Authority (RA). Other RA's under CEAA 2012 include the National Energy Board and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
Under the Act, the RA is obliged to conduct environmental assessments for projects before taking action. Steps include defining the project scope, consulting with the public where appropriate, conducting a study to determine environmental effects, and ensuring mitigation where required.
In the three northern territories, Environment Canada provides input into environmental assessment and regulatory processes under territorial legislation and land claim agreements, which focus on a much broader range of projects. Specifically, environmental assessment work is governed by the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act in the Northwest Territories; the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act in the Yukon; and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement in Nunavut.
Annually, Environment Canada participates in hundreds of environmental assessment reviews. The department’s goal is to ensure that long and short term consequences are considered and provide recommendations to the RA on reducing significant environmental impacts.
Environment Canada delivers its environmental assessment activities through a national network of EA practitioners, analysts, scientists, engineers, and support staff across many disciplines who work together to provide EA services to protect Canada's environment.
The network examines projects and project proposals; performs environmental assessments; provides expert advice to other federal departments and agencies; and responds to requests for Environment Canada’s scientific expertise from provincial and aboriginal governments to support their environmental assessments.
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