Frequently Asked Questions: AANDC's Environmental Review Process and Projects on Reserve

Q.1 How will changes to the Canadian Environment Assessment Act (CEAA) under the Government's Responsible Resource Development plan affect the environmental management of projects on reserve land?

A1. Changes to the Canadian Environment Assessment Act (CEAA) as part of Responsible Resource Development will focus federal environmental assessment efforts on major projects that have a greater potential to cause adverse environmental effects. These designated projects will continue to undergo environmental assessments under CEAA but with shorter, more concrete, deadlines.

Projects that pose less risk of environmental effects will still be subject to the requirements of all applicable federal and provincial laws, standards and permits. While environmental assessments will not be required for these projects, federal departments will still be required to ensure that they do not cause significant adverse environmental effects.

On-reserve major projects will be subject to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. However, most projects on reserve land do not fall under this category and would therefore be exempt from federal environmental assessment under the amended CEAA. Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) will work with First Nations and other federal authorities to ensure that these projects do not cause significant adverse environmental effects. The Department will report annually to Parliament on these activities.

Q.2 How will Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) continue to ensure environment protection on reserve land?

A2. AANDC has developed an environmental review process to ensure that projects on reserve that are not subject to the federal environmental assessment process continue to be carefully considered prior to the issuance of permits, leases or funding. This new process will ensure that the depth of the environmental review is commensurate with the risk and likelihood of significant adverse environmental effects associated with carrying out the project. Other federal laws will also continue to apply on reserve, such as the Fisheries Act, Species at Risk Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

The Department will work closely with First Nations to ensure that decisions are made in a timely and environmentally responsible manner. To ensure accountability and transparency, the Department will report annually to Parliament on these activities.

Q.3 What impact will AANDC's approach have for First Nations communities with lower-risk projects?

A3. First Nation communities stand to benefit from the shorter timelines and more predictable processes associated with AANDC's new environmental review process for lower-risk projects on reserve land. These proposed changes will enable projects on reserve land that have no significant adverse environmental effects to proceed in a timely manner, thereby contributing to jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for First Nation communities.

Q.4 Will the changes to CEAA have an impact on how environmental assessment provisions in comprehensive land claims and self-government agreements are implemented?

A4. No. Canada will continue to implement and respect its responsibilities pursuant to environmental assessment provisions in comprehensive land claims and self-government agreements.

Q.5 Will the changes to CEAA have an impact on federal lands in the North?

A5. CEAA 2012 will apply to federal lands in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region as a result of provisions in Western Arctic (Inuvialuit) Claims Settlement Act.

For most other federal lands in the North, CEAA 2012 would not normally apply. Provisions for environmental assessment processes in the territories are set out in settled land claim agreements, and implemented though federal legislation. These agreements create co-management regimes that largely replace the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Occasionally, for transboundary projects or those deemed to be in the national interest, proposals for development may be referred to the Minister of the Environment for the purposes of a joint review under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

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