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Better rules for major projects become law in Canada: Federal government

Canada's new approach to impact assessments is designed to protect the environment and grow the economy

Government of Canada logo.
"With the passage of this bill, our government is working to strengthen environmental protection, restore trust in how decisions are made, and grow the economy."

A strong economy depends on a healthy environment. The Government of Canada is enshrining in law better rules for major projects that protect the environment and communities, advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, and ensure good projects can go forward, creating good jobs and economic opportunities for middle-class Canadians. 

Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Natural Resources, and Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, welcome the Royal Assent of 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, granted by Her Excellency, the Governor General of Canada.

"Better rules mean protecting our environment, making transparent, science-based decisions, and advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples while growing our economy. We have delivered on our promise to include Canadians in decisions about resource development and restore environmental protections," McKenna said. "With hundreds of major resource projects and billions of dollars in investment planned across Canada in the decade ahead, better rules are essential to make sure good projects can move forward while protecting the places Canadians love for our kids and grandkids."

With the passage of this bill, the government says it is working to strengthen environmental protection, restore trust in how decisions are made, and grow the economy.

Better rules mean that, going forward, decisions on projects will be guided by science, evidence and Indigenous knowledge. Assessments will look at both positive and negative environmental, economic, social, and health impacts of potential projects.

"We have delivered a major commitment to Canadians, putting in place better rules that ensure good projects go ahead, and create new jobs and economic opportunities for the middle class, and those working hard to join it. These rules provide certainty and clarity companies have been looking for, encouraging investment in Canada's natural resources sectors," Sohi said.

To support Canada's competitiveness and attract investment, the new impact assessment system provides clear expectations and shorter legislated timelines, and aims to avoid duplication with other jurisdictions with 'one project, one review.' Better rules will give companies and investors the certainty and clarity they need, and ensure good projects can move forward in a timely way, the government has stated.

By recognizing Indigenous rights, culture, and interests in project reviews, and working in partnership from the start, the Government of Canada will advance reconciliation, and arrive at better project decisions. This legislation increases opportunities for Indigenous peoples to be active partners and to be consulted in impact assessments from the outset.

Restoring lost protections under the new Canadian Navigable Waters Act will be expanded to better protect the right to travel on all navigable waters in Canada, covering countless rivers, lakes and other waterways. This includes extra protections for those waterways most important to Canadians and Indigenous peoples.

"Our government knows how important our vast network of oceans, rivers, lakes and canals are for Canadians. The Canadian Navigable Waters Act ensures Indigenous rights are respected, and provides a clear, transparent and public process for impact assessment, so that project developers can plan with greater certainty. With this act, we are restoring lost protections for the public right to travel on all navigable waters in Canada," Garneau said.

The government states it listened to Canadians every step of the way as the legislation was developed. It heard from Indigenous peoples, companies, provinces and territories, environmental groups, and the public over three years, as well as Members of Parliament, and used that input to strengthen the bill.

With hundreds of major resource projects - worth over $500 billion in investment -  planned across Canada over the next 10 years, these better rules are essential to protect the environment and communities while making sure good projects can get built to create jobs for the middle class, according to the government.

Quick facts

  • The date for Coming into Force will be determined by the Governor in Council following Royal Assent.
  • Clear rules for transitioning to the new system are outlined in the legislation.
  • Companies currently undergoing an assessment under the previous legislation will have the option to continue under that system or "opt-in" to the new system. No project will have to go back to the starting line.
  • Over the span of the review, the government held public meetings, and received hundreds of written submissions, and thousands of comments from Canadians. We also heard from Expert Panels and Parliamentary committees that held meetings and received presentations and public comments.
  • With the best interest of Canadians at the heart of the decision, the House of Commons accepted 62 amendments and modified a further 37, accepting a total of 99 of the Senate's recommended amendments.