Posted on May 10, 2022 (updated: May 10, 2022)

Alberta Court of Appeal hands down disappointing opinion on constitutionality of Canada’s Impact Assessment Act

Fort McMurray Alberta
Photo by kris krüg, via Flickr

The case will now be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.  

CALGARY/TERRITORIES OF THE BLACKFOOT AND PEOPLES OF TREATY 7, HOME TO MÉTIS NATION OF ALBERTA, REGION IIIEcojustice is disappointed in a decision by the Alberta Court of Appeal, which has found in favour of the Alberta government in their constitutional challenge of the federal Impact Assessment Act (IAA). One judge dissented, believing the law to be constitutional. Ecojustice intervened in support of the federal government on this case, which is non-binding and has no immediate effect on the law. 

Following the decision, Ecojustice lawyer, Joshua Ginsberg made the following statement: 

“Ecojustice went to court to intervene in yet another attempt by the Alberta government to upend an important environmental law that protects people across Canada, and the air, water, and land that we all depend on.  

At a time when Canada is facing the looming impacts of the climate emergency, we need good environmental laws that work.  

“Federal and provincial governments have a responsibility to tackle the climate crisis, keep the public safe from pollution, and stop the loss of biodiversity. The Alberta provincial government should not be able to stand in the way of this progress.  

Ecojustice lawyers, thousands of Canadians from all backgrounds, and the federal government worked together to shape the Impact Assessment Act into a law that protects the environment and lets environmentally sound projects proceed. The law makes sure that when a project impacts parts of the environment under federal jurisdiction, Canada’s environmental commitments are at the forefront of the decision.  

“The IAA improves upon previous iterations of environmental assessment legislation, which failed to provide a credible process for decision-making on industrial projects with serious environmental impacts. The IAA brings important issues to light early in the planning phase and improves transparency around decision-making – all of which can head off the threat of future litigation. 

“While the Alberta decision is disappointing, it is not the last word on the constitutionality of the IAA. The case is being appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada. Ecojustice remains committed to standing up to the likes of the Alberta government, including going to court to defend laws that protect our climate, biodiversity, and a healthy environment for everyone in Canada.” 

Background

In 2019, the Alberta provincial government launched a challenge of the federal IAA, claiming that it was an “unconstitutional attack on Alberta.” Ecojustice intervened in the Alberta government’s legal challenge of the IAA and its regulations.

Ecojustice is fighting to defend the IAA because it is hard-fought legislation that is the product of collaboration by Canadians of all backgrounds, the federal government and Ecojustice lawyers. It is a good law that provides greater protection to the Canadian environment.

This constitutional reference is the latest in a string of politically-motivated attacks on environment and laws developed to defend the air, water, and land on which Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast depend.

For media inquiries

Eric Wright, Communications Manager, Ecojustice.

604-685-5618, ext. 525. ewright@ecojustice.ca

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