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On April 5, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, released the much-anticipated independent expert report on reforming Canada’s environmental assessment processes, “Building Common Ground: A New Vision for Impact Assessment in Canada”. The link is here: https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/themes/environment/conservation/environmental-reviews/building-common-ground/building-common-ground.pdf. We congratulate Renée Pelletier, our managing partner, one of the four expert panelists writing the report, on the extensive work and effort that went into preparing the report. The expert panel met with, heard from and received written submissions from numerous Indigenous groups, industrial and environmental organizations, project developers, members of the public, representatives from government, and EA practitioners. “The panel was blown away by the quality, depth and innovation found in the submissions made by Indigenous groups. One message was very clear: current environmental assessment processes are failing Indigenous People. The recommendations found in our report attempt to address that fact”, said Pelletier.
OKT lawyer Sara Mainville also played an important role in the development of the report, as a member of the Multi-Interest Advisory Committee on behalf of the Assembly of First Nations. Sara will continue to assist AFN in following up with Minister McKenna as she responds to the far-reaching recommendations in Building Common Ground.
The report is available for public comment until May 5, 2017. We look forward, having assisted numerous First Nation clients and organizations who made submissions to the expert panel, to contributing to the development of new federal environmental assessment legislation. There is now a significant and important opportunity to address key objectives that have been creatively addressed by the report, including incorporating the UNDRIP principle of free, prior and informed consent, and providing clear processes for meeting the Crown’s duty to consult and accommodate in the course of federal environmental assessment processes.
By Nancy Kleer