Steps for the Environmental Review Process

The Environmental Review Process (ERP) should be initiated as early as possible in the planning stages of any proposed undertaking, to ensure that the environment is appropriately considered and any adverse impacts are mitigated. The following sections will explain each step in the process, as shown below .

Step 1: Does the ERP apply?

Projects defined on the CEAA 2012 Regulations Designating Physical Activities will require a federal environmental assessment and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency should be contacted. For the remainder of projects/activities, not every application for funding or permit request received will require an environmental review.

Step 2: Completing a Project Description Form

Once it has been determined that the ERP applies, AANDC may ask that the proponent complete a Project Description Form. In certain cases, sufficient information will be provided through the project application and no further information will be required to make a determination of environmental effects. However, if additional information is needed, AANDC environment officers will contact the proponent with a request to complete the Project Description form, available via an internet link (however, hard copies are available for proponents, when internet functionality is limited). By providing these essential details of the proposed project, AANDC environment officers can (1) analyze the potential environmental risk of the project, (2) make recommendations on mitigation as appropriate, and (3) determine the need for further environmental review.

Smaller projects will not require the same level of detail as larger, more complex projects. When applicable, AANDC officials may need to request additional information on key environmental components that are not included in the Project Description form.

The form must be completed by a person knowledgeable of the project, its location and the potential environmental effects associated with the project. The proponent is responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the information provided. Please contact your regional Environment Unit for further guidance and assistance in completing this form.

Step 3: Identifying the need for further review

AANDC environment officers will review the information provided and perform a risk analysis to identify whether there is a need for further environmental review. Depending on the results of this analysis, AANDC officials will identify the appropriate level of review with respect to the nature of the project and its potential risk to the environment.

Step 4: Analysis of Environmental Effects

Based on the information provided in the Project Description, Simple Environmental Review Report or Detailed Environmental Review Report, AANDC will complete an analysis of the potential environmental effects associated with the project and proposed mitigation measures.

Under Section 5 of CEAA 2012 all effects from the project to the environment can be considered, including fish and fish habitat, migratory birds, species at risk, air quality, water quality, soil, plants and wildlife, etc.  The s.5 (c) definition of "environmental effects" also includes provisions that explicitly relate to Aboriginal peoples and the effects of any change caused to the environment on their:

  • health and socio-economic conditions;
  • physical and cultural heritage;
  • current use of land and resources for traditional purposes; or
  • structures, sites or things that are of historical, archaeological, paleontological or architectural significance.

For each adverse effect that is identified, mitigation measures should be proposed, with the intent of eliminating, reducing, or otherwise controlling that adverse effect.  Mitigation may take many forms and established and effective mitigation measures, as shown below, are taken into account when assessing risk. Incorporating them into the project planning phase may significantly reduce the overall risk level of the project. Other factors considered are the likelihood of the environmental effect occurring, as well as frequency, duration and scale of impact, should it occur.

Effective and Established Mitigation Measures


Mitigation measures which compensate for the environmental effect through other means:

  • Replace wetland habitat that will be lost;
  • Award financial compensation for lost resource or other opportunities.


Mitigation measures which repair the situation after an environmental effect has occurred:

  • Rehabilitate site area by re-vegetating & landscaping
  • Spill containment and cleanup


Mitigation measures which reduce the magnitude or duration of the impact:

  • Establish berms, breaks, ditches, to limit soil runoff during construction;
  • Ensure all equipment properly tuned, fitted with standard emissions control devices.


Mitigation measures which avoid the impact all together:

  • Avoid work during critical nesting periods;
  • Time in-water work outside of spawning periods.

Any residual environmental effects (i.e. environmental effects that remain, or are predicted to remain, even after mitigation measures have been applied) must be evaluated for their significance and likelihood. The significance of predicted effects is determined using the following factors:

  • Magnitude (i.e. severity, ranging from inconsequential to catastrophic)
  • Geographic extent (localized or widespread)
  • Duration and frequency
  • Reversibility or irreversibility
  • Ecological context (has the region already been adversely affected by human activities and/or is the region ecologically fragile)
  • Acceptable level of risk

The likelihood of any significant adverse effect must also be assessed, by considering the probability that the effects will occur and the level of scientific uncertainty associated with the information and methods used in the environmental review. Please consult the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency's reference Guide, "Determining Whether a Project is Likely to Cause Significant Adverse Environmental Effects" for a more comprehensive discussion on how significance and likelihood are determined.

Step 5: Decision and Implementation

If the environmental review concludes that the project is unlikely to cause significant adverse effects, AANDC may proceed with issuing its funding and/or regulatory authorization (e.g., permit, lease) in support of the project.

Should it be determined that the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, AANDC cannot issue funding or regulatory authorization in support of the project as proposed. However, under s. 67(b) of CEAA 2012, the project may be referred to the Governor in Council to decide if the effects are justifiable under the circumstances (e.g., consideration of the projected socioeconomic benefits of the project).