The combined effect of hundreds of thousands of different approvals, licences and unpermitted activities have combined over time to degrade our natural life support systems – the web of life that we are part of, and depend upon, to sustain our cultures and economies.
This paper draws on British Columbia’s experience to better understand the legal framework for cumulative effects management in Canada today, the challenges and opportunities it presents, as well as potential solutions. Building from the ground up – looking at best practices and models from around the world – we examine the key elements of cumulative effects management and examples of approaches that could help get Canada back on track if implemented in federal, provincial and Indigenous law. We focus on solutions that move beyond reactive, proponent-driven project-based assessment and operational permitting, to focus on the big picture at a strategic and regional level.
Our approach is integrative, examining Indigenous, Canadian, provincial, local government and common law, as well as the full cycle of cumulative effects management –from strategic and regional assessment and planning; to tenuring, project assessment and permitting; to monitoring, enforcement and adaptive management.
In this paper, we present a proposal for how different co-governance processes and bodies could give effect to these learnings in Canada today. Ongoing work to develop a next generation environmental assessment law for Canada, and implementation of BC’s Cumulative Effects Framework, provide opportunities to consider and implement our recommendations.