Ensuring Environmental Sustainability through Public Consultation in Canada's Environmental Assessment Process: Lessons Learnt

H. Ranasinghe

Abstract


Environmental assessment is a planning and decision-making process used to promote
environmentally responsible decision-making. In Canada, the environmental assessment is
regulated by both federal and provincial acts. Canadian environmental assessment act
regulates the environmental assessment federally while each Province has its own legislation
on environmental assessment. With regards to federal projects, Canadian Environmental
Assessment Agency is the responsible authority to get the environmental assessment done
and have to be approved by the minister of environment. With regards to the provincial
projects, there are three types of assessments; individual environmental assessments (done
when the environmental impacts are very significant), class environmental assessments (these
are prior approved planning documents for ten types of projects-resource stewardship and
facility development, minor transmission facilities, government transit, energy infrastructure,
remedial flood and erosion control, water power, northern development and mines). Based on
the severity of the environmental impacts, they are categorised into schedule A, B and C.
They are self-assessed assessments, but if proved to have higher environmental impacts, then
the minister of environment will issue an order to conduct individual environmental
assessments. For electricity, waste management and transit projects, environmental screening
process has been introduced with a provision to upgrade to individual environmental
assessment if required.

According to the Canadian environmental assessment act, public participation is included in
all the key milestones of project approval, in the determination of whether an environmental
assessment is required, finalising environmental impact statement guidelines by the Canadian
Environmental Assessment Agency to the project proponent, the preparation of the
environmental impact statement by the project proponent, in finalsing the environmental
impact statement by the agency. In provincial administration, public participation is included
when the project proponent is preparing the terms of reference, in finalising the terms of
reference, in conducting the environmental assessment by the project proponent, in making
the final decision on the project by the ministry. Public participation ensures an open,
balanced process and strengthen the quality and credibility of a project. Local and traditional
knowledge about a project‟s physical location can help to identify and address potential
environmental effects at the early stage of an environmental assessment. The opportunities
and seriousness placed on public participation by the Canadian government facilitates
sustainable development.

Keywords: Public participation, Environmental assessment, Canada


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Proceedings of International Forestry and Environment Symposium, Sri Lanka. Published by Department of Forestry and Environmental Science, University of Sri Jayewardenepura