Will we see #realchange with Trudeau’s environmental assessment review?

This week the review panel for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) launched dates for its public consultations along with its website. This is part of Trudeau’s campaign promise of reviewing and modernizing the CEAA that was gutted by the former Harper government, resulting in the cancelation of nearly 3000 environmental assessments. These canceled environmental assessments included reviews for the Line 9 pipeline, the Canadian portion of the Keystone pipeline, water takings for fracking by Encana, numerous dams and many oil and gas project in Indigenous communities.
 
 
Photo by Zachary Collier: Atlantic regional organizer Angela Giles at Porters Lake, NS  
 
In June, six federal ministers whose mandates impact the environment announced they would review legislation gutted by the former Harper government. The reviews are to include consultations through the fall about the National Energy Board, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Fisheries Act and the Navigation Protection Act.
 
In August, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna appointed four members to the CEAA review panel and tasked them with detailing their findings in a report by January 31, 2017.
 
How can you participate in the environmental assessment review process?
 
There will be CEAA consultations in 19 cities from coast to coast beginning on Monday, September 19. There will be day-time sessions where participants can make formal 10 minute presentations to the panel between 1-5 p.m. There will be public workshops later in the evening,  typically between 6:30 – 10 p.m., where participants will get information about the panel’s review process and then share their opinions.
 
To make a formal presentation to the panel, you must register here. To participate in the evening workshops, register here. Spaces are limited so register as soon as possible. You can also participate online
 
On the same day that the CEAA consultations begin, Council of Canadians National Chairperson Maude Barlow will launch her new book, Boiling Point: Government Neglect, Corporate Abuse, and Canada’s Water Crisis.
 
In her new book, Barlow presents disturbing information on the threats to water including the former Harper government’s, the oil and gas industry, commodification of water and free trade agreements. She concludes the book with insights on how we can truly protect water. This is an incredibly useful tool for people who are planning on participating in the Trudeau government’s reviews on freshwater and environmental protections. Barlow will also kick off a 14-city book tour beginning on Tuesday, September 20 in Ottawa. To get more information on the book tour events, click here
 
What do we want to see in a new environmental process?
 
In Boiling Point, Maude Barlow affirms, "The previous powers of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act must be reinstated and applied to all major projects across Canada, providing a clear process for public consultation and input."
 
In August, West Coast Environmental Law presented twelve interdependent pillars needed for a visionary, new environmental assessment process in Canada. Some of the pillars include:
  • Cumulative effects assessments done regionally - Cumulative effects assessment is regional, focuses on environmental health, and looks to the past, present and future.
  • Co-governance with Indigenous Nations - Collaborative assessment and decision-making processes are based on nation-to-nation relationships, reconciliation and the obligation to secure the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous peoples.
  • Climate assessments to achieve Canada’s climate goals - A climate test ensures that projects keep Canada on track to meeting its climate change commitments and targets.
  • Credibility, transparency and accountability throughout - Legislation sets out criteria, rules and factors to guide assessments and discourage politicized decisions. An independent body conducts assessments and the public has the right to appeal decisions.
  • Participation for the people -Meaningful public participation is early, ongoing, accessible and dynamic. It occurs at all levels of assessment and has the ability to influence outcomes.
  • Consideration of the best option from among a range of alternatives -Assessments consider alternative scenarios, including the “no” alternative.
 
You can read the rest of the pillars and the full report here. This is a useful report if you are planning on participating in the public consultations.
 
How can we protect every lake and every river?
 
Linked to the CEAA are the changes the former Harper government made to the Navigable Waters Protection Act. You likely remember that the former Harper government removed protections from 99% of lakes and rivers under the act, exempted pipelines and transmission lines and changed the name of the act to the Navigation Protection Act.
 
The former Harper government  drastically narrowed the scope of environmental assessments including no longer requiring descriptions for the impact that projects will have on navigable waters.
 
The Trudeau government plans to review the NPA under the CEAA process and through the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities
 
To learn more about how the Council of Canadians is working to get protections restored and enhanced under the Navigable Waters Protection Act, learn about our Every Lake, Every River campaign
 
The Trudeau government must restore and enhance the Navigable Waters Protection Act and other water legislation so that all lakes, rivers and waterways are fully protected. We must call on the Trudeau government to consult with Indigenous communities on a nation-to-nation basis and include the obligation to obtain free, prior and consent into CEAA and other water legislation so that Indigenous treaty and water rights are respected. Strict safeguards for water must be implemented into CEAA and other water legislation within the framework of the United Nations-recognized human right to water.
 
The Hill Times reported that the Canadian Electricity Association, Shell Canada and the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association are registered to lobby the Navigation Protection Act and we can be sure that the resource industry will also be lobbying on CEAA. All eyes will be on Trudeau and his ministers to see whether they can resist the powerful corporate lobby and do what is right to protect water, the climate and communities from risky projects.
 
The Trudeau government’s reviews are a rare and exciting opportunity to change the way water is governed. Together we can make clear that we are expecting nothing short of real change.