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press release

Ecojustice before the Supreme Court to uphold crucial environmental assessment law

March 20, 2023


Ecojustice will appear before the Supreme Court of Canada tomorrow to uphold and defend the federal Impact Assessment Act (IAA), an important environmental law that protects people across Canada, and the air, water, and land we all depend on.

In 2019, the Alberta government launched a legal challenge against the IAA and its regulations. Ecojustice intervened in this challenge; however, in May 2022, the Alberta Court of Appeal found in favour of the Alberta government.

This decision is now being appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Ecojustice is intervening before the court to make sure that provinces who prioritize extraction over protection of biodiversity, preventing pollution and ensuring a safe climate future do not stand in the way of an essential environmental law.

The law provides clear criteria for determining whether a project’s impacts in areas of federal authority are in the public interest, including sustainability, the extent of impacts on Indigenous rights and impacts on Canada’s ability to meet its climate commitments.

It also provides greater transparency. It ensures that decision-making is not done behind closed doors for reasons that are not disclosed.

Joshua Ginsberg, Ecojustice lawyer, said:

“Canada now faces greater environmental peril than ever. Three interconnected threats, climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste, are inflicting severe damage in this country. These threats will not abate unless every government takes their responsibility to protect people and the environment seriously. The IAA is not perfect, but it is at least a serious attempt to discharge the government’s moral obligation to its citizens.”

“Decisions under the IAA might be politically unpalatable to a province or make it a bit more complicated for a proponent to do as they wish with public lands and resources. That does not make the IAA unconstitutional, it shows that it serves a purpose – environmental protection – which Canadians have the right to expect from every level of government.

“Ecojustice has a track record of supporting good environmental laws from attack. We intervened when several provincial governments challenged the federal government’s ability to put a price on carbon and, together with our allies, we won. We’re going to court again to make sure that federal jurisdiction to stop environmental damage is upheld.”