The impact assessment process works a bit differently according to where it takes place in the country. Different regulatory regimes may apply to a project depending on the province or territory in which it is proposed.
South of the 60th parallel
In provinces south of the 60th parallel, the legal requirements for impact assessment are outlined in the Impact Assessment Act, 2019. The Act requires all federal authorities like Parks Canada to determine prior to project approval that “the carrying out of the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.” The Act does not prescribe the process used to make this determination. Parks Canada has developed its own Impact Assessment Process to fulfil the requirement. The Parks Canada process is designed to ensure that assessments are effective, efficient and sensible.
Pathways of project-level impact assessment
The first step in the process is Parks Canada assigns the project to one of three pathways. The pathway assignment reflects the project’s potential risks to the environment. It also accounts for the certainty about those risks and the ease of risk mitigation. Public interest in the project is also considered.
There is some flexibility in the pathway assignment. This ensures that the process responds to specific circumstances.
Preapproved routine impact assessment (PRIA): Parks Canada developed a set of preapproved assessments for classes of routine projects. This pathway is assigned when the project belongs to one of those classes. The project effects are well understood and predictable. The PRIA prescribes a suite of tried and true environmental management and mitigation measures.
Basic impact assessment (BIA): This pathway is applied when potential adverse environmental effects are predictable and will be confined to the project site or immediate surroundings. Some site-specific strategies may be needed to prevent environmental effects.
BIAs may be conducted for short hiking trails through sensitive environments.
Detailed impact assessment (DIA): This pathway is applied to complex projects. They require in-depth analysis of project interactions with the environment. The project may threaten a sensitive environmental setting, species or feature. The scope of work may attract lots of interest from Indigenous groups, the public and stakeholders. This pathway provides more in-depth consultation opportunities.
The Parks Canada impact assessment process is not applied to Designated Projects, which are listed on the Physical Activities Regulations. If a project falls within the classes listed in the Regulations, it is assessed by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada. The Agency follows the process identified in the Impact Assessment Act, 2019.