Twenty-three organizations ranging from ENGOs to social justice and community groups have given the British Columbia (B.C.) government their wish list for environmental assessment reform.
“It’s time for a new approach, and a new law to replace the outdated B.C. Environmental Assessment Act,” said Anna Johnston, staff lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law in a release. “Groups from all over the province agree that major changes are needed to strengthen the law and make assessments work for the environment and affected communities.”
The vision calls for environmental assessment legislation that establishes sustainability as a core purpose and outcome, recognizes Indigenous decision-making authority, ensures that B.C. meets its climate targets, and addresses “big picture” issues, such as managing the cumulative effects of development in a region. The organizations also say assessments must be led by an independent body, involve the public, and require decision-makers to demonstrate that their decisions are based on science and Indigenous knowledge.
On March 7, 2018, B.C. announced the formation of an Environmental Assessment Advisory Committee to review and make recommendations on the environmental assessment process. B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Act has been labelled weak in reports and analyses by organizations such as the provincial Auditor General, the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre and West Coast Environmental Law.
A discussion paper on environmental assessment revitalization is expected to be released in May 2018 with a focus on three key outcomes:
- enhancing public confidence, transparency and meaningful participation
- advancing reconciliation with First Nations
- protecting the environment while supporting sustainable economic development.