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Lawyers put the spotlight on flaws in BC’s environmental assessment regime

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Key problems highlighted as BC government prepares to launch review of EA processes

VANCOUVER, BC, Coast Salish Territories – A new backgrounder released by West Coast Environmental Law Association demonstrates the urgent need for an overhaul of BC’s environmental assessment (EA) regime, as the provincial government prepares to launch a new process to reform the current framework.

The backgrounder, Why it’s Time to Reform Environmental Assessment in British Columbia, takes a hard look at a series of problems that must be addressed to better align provincial assessments and decisions with the needs of ecosystems, the vision of BC communities, and the exercise of jurisdiction by Indigenous nations.

“British Columbia can and must do better than its current approach to environmental assessment. The provincial government’s commitment to reform the assessment regime is a major opportunity to enact new legislation that can help BC achieve sustainability, advance reconciliation, and protect the interests of communities and ecosystems,” said Gavin Smith, Staff Lawyer.

In its recent Speech from the Throne, the BC government reiterated commitments to “revitalize BC’s environmental assessment process,” and to “engage industry, Indigenous Peoples and communities” in the process. The push to reform EA in BC also follows a recent bill tabled by the federal government, which introduces a new Impact Assessment Act to overhaul federal EA.

As outlined in the backgrounder, key problems with BC’s current EA framework include a failure to address the cumulative effects of development, poor public engagement, a lack of transparency and accountability, and a failure to recognize Indigenous jurisdiction or uphold the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

“The shortcomings in BC’s current environmental assessment regime are damaging public trust in the process and resulting in costly legal conflicts like we’ve seen with major projects such as the Site C dam or New Prosperity Mine. This serves the interests of no one,” said Smith.

“We look forward to working with the BC government to fix these problems and implement better decision-making processes for the environment and communities in BC,” he said.

The BC government is expected to launch a formal process to reform provincial EA in the coming weeks.

View the complete backgrounder at:


For more information, please contact:

Gavin Smith | Staff Lawyer, West Coast Environmental Law Association