Environmental impact assessment (EIA) originated in the United States under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 and is now among the most widely practiced ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT tools in the world. EIA was formally introduced in Canada in 1973 by the federal Environmental Assessment and Review Process (EARP). In 1992, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act was proclaimed as law to replace EARP and to strengthen EIA in Canada. The Act came into force in 1995. EIA is also required under the law of the provinces and territories, and under various LAND CLAIM agreements in Canada's north. Municipalities and corporations are subject to the EIA requirements of their respective provincial, territorial or land claim jurisdictions, and are also subject to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act if the federal government holds some decision-making authority concerning the proposed development or the acceptability of its impacts. Informally, EIA is increasingly becoming a routine part of the environmental management and auditing systems of municipalities and corporations.
The purposes of EIA are to ensure that projects do not cause significant adverse environmental effects and to encourage actions that promote SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act sets out responsibilities and procedures for the EIA of projects for which the federal government holds decision-making authority, for example, a federal department's or agency's own project proposal; or project proposals on lands the federal government administers, provides funding to, or has some regulatory or permitting responsibility for. The kinds of projects involved include building an airport, funding or transferring lands for mining developments, establishing nuclear developments, dredging a harbour, constructing a fish ladder and all projects in NATIONAL PARKS.
The EIA process consists of a number of steps that are practised under more or less all EIA systems in Canada and internationally: i) a detailed description of the proposed project; ii) a screening process to determine whether an EIA is required; iii) a baseline study to identify past, present and future conditions against which the effects of the project will be assessed; iv) identifying and evaluating potential project effects; v) developing strategies to manage these effects; vi) a technical and public review of the information generated; vii) a decision as to whether the project should proceed and, if so, under what conditions; and, if the project is approved, viii) monitoring and managing actual outcomes. Early involvement of the public, and the public's sustained involvement throughout the process, is regarded as essential to good EIA.
Author BRAM F. NOBLE
Kevin S. Hanna, ed, Environmental Impact Assessment: Practice and Participation (2005, second edition 2009); Bram F. Noble, Introduction to Environmental Impact Assessment: A Guide to Principles and Practice (2006, second edition 2010).
Links to Other Sites
Point Pelee National Park Environmental Assessment
Aimed at junior and senior high school students, this site offers students an opportunity to conduct their own environmental impact assessments on the park.
Corals of the Maritimes
An overview of cold-water coral research and conservation programs in the Maritimes region. From Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
My Century - Maurice Strong
This BBC site features a discussion with Maurice Strong about the topic of sustainable development (fourth item on the list).
Bedford Institute of Oceanography
The website for the Bedford Institute of Oceanography. Features many research reports, maps, diagrams and multimedia resources about oceanography. Also profiles the Canadian Coast Guard survey vessels stationed at the Institute. Check the informative “Program Overview” before searching this very extensive site.
Environment Canada Library
The EC Library Downsview website features resources related to meteorology, climate research, air quality, severe weather, and atmospheric sciences.
Canadian Environmental Network
The website for the Canadian Environmental Network. Check out the online newsletters and other information sources about current environmental issues.
Earth Day Canada
Check out the website for Earth Day Canada for local Earth Day events in your community. Find out what each of us can do to lessen our environmental impact.