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Failing Grade: New Federal Approach to Environmental Assessment Leaves Canadians at Risk and Without a Voice

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Federal environmental assessment law passed Monday night will turn a blind eye to the potential human health and environmental impacts of many proposed projects.

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA –A report card issued today by a team of environmental lawyers gives a failing grade to the federal government’s new approach to environmental assessment. The report card measures the final content of Bill C-38 - the omnibus Budget Bill passed Monday by the House of Commons - against a checklist of principles endorsed earlier this year by over 55 Canadian organisations coast to coast representing scientists, physicians, lawyers, advocates for democracy and citizen groups.

Whether it is fairness, predictability, accessibility, strengthening public participation or advancing sustainability, in every area the new law falls short.

“In the final analysis, Bill C-38 just doesn’t make the grade,” says Jessica Clogg, Executive Director & Senior Counsel, West Coast Environmental Law Association. “Absent from Bill C-38, which replaced the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act with a new and less comprehensive law, are virtually every one of the safeguards required for a safe and effective approach to environmental assessment of resource projects.”

Even as the Bill prepares to clear final hurdles in the Senate, the federal government has not said which projects its new law will apply to, only that such assessments, when and if they happen, will be arbitrarily shortened and restrict public participation. Assessment of human health impacts has also been eliminated for many projects. .

“This law removes health and socio-economic conditions from the types of environmental effects to be assessed in most circumstances and gives Cabinet powers to arbitrarily decide which components of the environment should be assessed, while ignoring others,” says Rachel Forbes, Staff Counsel with West Coast Environmental Law Association. “This new law places the health, safety and security of Canadians, our environment and our economy at risk.”

The report card and accompanying legal analysis are authored by West Coast Environmental Law Association, a BC-based not-for-profit group of environmental law analysts.

The Checklist for Strong Environmental Laws (February 2012), against which the lawyers evaluated the new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act 2012, sets out foundational principles for a system of environmental assessment laws to ensure sound and democratic decisions, uphold the Canadian Constitution, and deliver lasting and sustainable benefits to all Canadians.

Download the Report Card and find the full legal analysis at:

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Contact Information:
Jessica Clogg, Executive Director & Senior Counsel
West Coast Environmental Law Association