Environmental assessment and protection of the territory

Environmental assessment and territorial protection are at the heart of the JBACE's mandate as stipulated in Section 22 of the JBNQA. In recent years, there have been a number of issues that have caught members' attention in this area, and continue to do so.

Quebec's Environmental Quality Act

The Environment Quality Act (EQA) was introduced in 1972. In 2015, the MDDELCC (now the MELCC) published a Livre Vert in order to update it. In June 2016, the MDDELCC published Bill 102 which outlined proposed changes to the EQA. The amended EQA was adopted in December 2016 and sanctioned in March 2017. Regulations for the implementation of the revised EQA were originally scheduled to come into force on December 1, 2018, but in July, the Minister of MDDELCC announced the establishment of sectoral co-creation tables for the said regulations, thus postponing the date that they should have come into force.

Recent actions:

  • 2010: recommendation to the Government of Québec to use Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEAs) to better reflect the environmental and social capacity of the northern environment to receive major development initiatives
  • September 2015: comments on the Livre Vert regarding modernization of the EQA, namely on: inclusion of SEAs, modifications to the environmental authorization system, access to information, transparency, and participation
  • June 2016: reiteration of the recommendation to include SEAs in the Strategic Vision for Mining Development from the Government of Québec
  • November 2016: adoption of a brief on Bill 102 regarding the modernization of the EQA
  • July 2017: meeting of a delegation of the JBACE with representatives of the MDDELCC to discuss modifications to regulations associated with the revised EQA
  • October 2017: opinion on regulations for the implementation of the revised EQA
  • April 2018: comments regarding the Regulation respecting ministerial authorizations and declarations of compliance in environmental matters (RRMADCEM) for the implementation of the revised EQA

The JBACE will continue the dialogue with the MELCC and will comment as required on draft regulations, as well as on proposed amendments to existing regulations, as they are tabled.

Canadian Environmental Assessment Act

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) was introduced in 1992 and came into force in 1995. Although it included provisions to review it every five years, a first revision begins in 2000 and the process (including consultation with the public, Indigenous communities and government stakeholders) lasts more than one year. The second revision was scheduled to take place in 2010, but after being delayed, it was conducted over a short period of time in 2011 (a few weeks) and left little room for outside consultation. CEAA 2012 replaces CEAA 1992 and comes into effect on July 6, 2012. In 2016, the federal government undertakes a review of its environmental assessment processes. This review leads to the preparation of draft legislation that could eventually replace CEAA 2012.

Recent actions:

  • November 2016: presentation of the JBACE on the Section 22 procedure as part of expert panel consultations established to consult and make recommendations to improve federal environmental assessment (EA) processes
  • February 2017: brief and recommendations on the review of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012
  • May 2017: comments on the conclusions and recommendations of the expert committee
  • October 2017: comments on the review of environmental assessment processes in response to the federal government's Discussion Paper
  • April 2018: comments on Bill C-69, An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
  • May 2018: Comments on the proposed approach to amend the Regulations Designating Physical Activities (currently under CEAA 2012) in response to the Consultation paper on the approach to revising the project list: A proposed impact assessment system

The JBACE has confirmed its interest in participating in the parliamentary process for the revision of the federal environmental assessment processes, including the legislative amendments to CEAA 2012 and consequential amendments to the regulations.

Consideration of cumulative effects

Cumulative effects are changes to the environment caused by human action, combined with other past, present and future human actions. Cumulative effects may result from minor actions, when considered one by one, but whose impacts for a certain time in a given region may be significant. For several years, the JBACE has been interested in this matter in the context of environmental assessments.

Recent actions:

  • May 2016: study examining the consideration of cumulative effects in the directive, the environmental impact study, the review and the authorization of seven projects submitted to the Section 22 impact assessment and review procedure, prepared for the JBACE by an expert
  • September 2016: workshop between the JBACE and the Section 22 evaluating and review committees to discuss the findings and recommendations of the study with the intention of improving the procedure
  • November 2017: presentation of JBACE concerns regarding cumulative effects on Woodland Caribou herds and their habitat; recommendation to the responsible federal and provincial departments to undertake a rigorous review of cumulative effects on herds and habitats in the Territory

The JBACE continues to take an interest in this issue and will evaluate its actions in the coming months.

Fisheries Act

The federal government conducted a major revision of the Fisheries Act over a short period of time in 2011 (a few weeks) and left little room for external consultation. The revised Act came into force in 2012, and the JBACE responded by promoting Cree consultation for the application of the revised Act while also working with Fisheries and Oceans Canada to develop a guide adapted to the context of the James Bay Territory for its implementation (i.e. the self-assessment procedure). Since 2013, the JBACE has worked with the Regional Offices of Fisheries and Oceans Canada to ensure that Cree rights are taken into account under the Fisheries Act. In the summer of 2016, the Government of Canada began reviewing a number of laws, including the Fisheries Act.

Recent actions:

  • October 2016: JBACE announces intention to participate in the review of the Fisheries Act
  • November 2016: comments to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans as part of the review of the Fisheries Act
  • March 2017: publication of a guide for developers regarding the self-assessments they conduct for projects near water in the Eeyou Istchee James Bay Territory
  • October 2017: comments on the Fisheries Act in response to the Discussion Paper issued by the Government of Canada
  • May 2018: comments on Bill C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence
  • September 2018: comments on the approach to amending the Applications for Authorization (currently under the Fisheries Act) in response to the Consultation Paper: Approach to a key regulation under the proposed fish and fish habitat provisions of the Fisheries Act

The JBACE expressed its intention to participate in the parliamentary process regarding legislative amendments to the Fisheries Act.