Northern Regulatory Systems

Table of contents

The northern regulatory systems in Canada's territories are based on the unique legal and cultural frameworks of the North as they are derived from land claims agreements; and in the case of Yukon, powers devolved from the federal government.

There are four distinct regulatory regimes that guide the environmental assessment (EA) and permitting processes for major projects in the North: Yukon Region, Northwest Territories - Mackenzie Valley Region, Northwest Territories - Inuvialuit Settlement Region, and Nunavut Region.

The Northern Projects Management Office (NPMO) helps ensure that the EA and permitting processes in the North are streamlined, efficient and transparent to advance major resource and infrastructure projects.

Yukon Region

In Yukon, the environmental assessment process is conducted through an environmental screening assessment (ESA). The process is carried out by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board (YESAB),an independent arms-length body established under the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act (YESA Act)

Under the YESA Act, the Board's Executive Committee is responsible for conducting screenings of Projects pursuant to the process described in the legislation and corresponding regulations.

Once a screening is completed, the Executive Committee will issue a report that either requires a review of the Project or recommends one of the following:

Federal, territorial or First Nation governments or agencies with a regulatory or statutory responsibility in relation to a major project are identified as Decision Bodies to the Project and will make decisions based on the recommendations of the Executive Committee. Decision Bodies can accept, reject or vary YESAB's recommendation – their decision, is communicated through the issuance of a Decision Document.

Upon completion of the environmental screening assessment, and subsequent review if required, major projects will be subject to regulatory permitting (e.g. water license, and/or a quartz mining license) which will vary based on the size, scale, and type of the project.

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Northwest Territories – Mackenzie Valley Region

In the Mackenzie Valley the environmental impact assessment process is governed by the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act (MVRMA).

There are three potential stages of the assessment process: the preliminary screening, the environmental assessment; and environmental impact review.

The preliminary screening is conducted by a land and water board upon receiving an application for a land use permit or water license. If the preliminary screening body determines that the proposed activity might have significant adverse impacts on the environment or might cause public concern, the application is referred to the second stage – environment assessment. If not, then the application can proceed to the permitting and licensing process.

The environmental assessment, conducted by the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board, is a more thorough examination of the proposal to determine if the Project is likely to have significant adverse impacts on the environment or likely to cause public concern. Once the assessment is completed, the Review Board will issue a report that recommends whether the Project be approved, with or without mitigative or remedial measures or a follow-up program, or rejected. This report is provided to the federal Minister and responsible ministers for final decision.

If at the completion of the environmental assessment, the review is deemed inconclusive or the Project represents unusually significant impacts, the Review Board or federal and responsible ministers may order an environment impact review. The environmental impact review is a more detailed and comprehensive assessment conducted by an independent panel appointed by the Review Board. Once the environmental impact review is complete, the panel will issue a report, with the approvals process similar to the environmental assessment process.

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Northwest Territories – Inuvialuit Settlement Region

In the Inuvialuit Settlement Region (ISR), the environmental assessment process is governed by Section 11 of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement (IFA)as well as by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEA Act). As many projects in the region will trigger a review under both the IFA and the CEA Act, environmental assessments may be coordinated so that a single environmental assessment meets the legal requirements of both jurisdictions. It is possible to substitute the IFA process for the CEAA process where applicable and with approval of the Minister of the Environment.

The Inuvialuit Final Agreement established two co-management boards to manage the review of proposed developments - the Environmental Impact Screening Committee (EISC) which conducts preliminary screening; and the Environmental Impact Review Board (EIRB) which conducts environmental assessments.

The EISC is responsible for undertaking a preliminary assessment of a proposed development and its environmental effects to determine whether it could have a significant negative environmental effect. If the EISC determines that the proposed development could have a significant negative environmental effect then the proposed development is referred to EIRB for a more detailed review. If not, the EISC may allow the development to proceed and can approve the development if it is deemed to not have potential negative impacts.

The EIRB carries our more detailed environment impact assessment and public reviews of projects referred by the Screening Committee. The EIRB appoints a Review Panel, which will decide whether a project should proceed and, if so, under what specific terms and conditions.

The Review Panel forwards its decision with its reasons in writing to the regulatory authorities competent to approve the proposed development, and, if required by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act under a substituted process, to the Minister of the Environment.

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Nunavut Region

The environmental impact assessment process in Nunavut is governed by Article 12 of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement , which established the Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB).

NIRB is responsible for both the screening and impact assessment of proposed development in Nunavut. A screening is the initial impact assessment of a proposed project, with the main purpose being to determine if a more in-depth review is needed to understand the impacts of the project. Based on its review, NIRB will issue its Screening Decision Report to the responsible Minister, which will recommend one of the following approaches:

If the Minister decides to send the project proposal to Review, there are two types of review processes for environmental assessment – a Part 5 review that is conducted by NIRB; or a Part 6 review that is conducted by a Federal Environmental Assessment Panel.

For the Part 5 review process, NIRB assesses the proposal to determine the environmental and socio-economic impacts of the proposed project, and to determine whether the whether the project should proceed, and if so, under what terms and conditions. Following its review, NIRB submits a report of its findings and recommendations to the Responsible Minister [see note above] for decision. The Responsible Minister can reject the report, accept the report, or send it back to NIRB for additional review and changes.

For a Part 6 review process, a panel comprised of members appointed by the Minister of the Environment, undertakes a review of the proposal determine the environmental and socio-economic impacts of the proposed project, and to determine whether the whether the project should proceed, and if so, under what terms and conditions. Similar to the Part 5 review process, the panel submits a report of its findings and recommendations to the Minister of the Environment and the Responsible Minister for decision.

If a project receives approval from the Responsible Minister to proceed, the project then enters the regulatory permitting process. These processes are managed in part by the Nunavut Water Board, established under Article 13 of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, as well as by the responsible authorizing departments or agencies.

For more information on the environmental assessment process in the Nunavut Region, please visit the following links:

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