Legal experts say ball’s in Ottawa’s court to revamp and make legal Canada’s Impact Assessment Act
The Canadian government’s environmental assessment process is in disarray. On Oct. 13, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in a 5-2 decision that most of Ottawa’s controversial Impact Assessment Act (IAA) was unconstitutional and far outside the government’s authority to assess and make decisions on major resource and infrastructure projects
Only 10 out of 188 sections in the Act — passed in 2019 — were deemed valid. And that was a narrow section of the IAA concerning projects on federal land and that are federally financed.
The ruling has a major impact in restricting the way Ottawa regulates mining, power plants, highways, and other large-scale infrastructure projects. It reduces the government’s ability to delay or say no to projects within a province. Besides infringing on provincial authority, the court deemed the process too vague and held no defined procedural timelines.
It was a crushing back-to-the-drawing-board blow that forces Ottawa to rewrite a good chunk of one of the government’s signature pieces of legislation. “The message is pretty clear,” said Maureen Killoran, national co-chair at Olser, Hoskin and Harcourt LLP. “It tells the (federal) government to stay in its own lane.”