VICTORIA B.C. – The B.C. government introduced legislation to modernize the environmental assessment process for resource projects.
In 1995 B.C. was one of the first provinces to introduce environmental assessment legislation, a system for responsible resource projects, reconciliation with B.C.’s Indigenous peoples, environmental protection, increased transparency and increased public engagement.
“By revitalizing our environmental assessment process, we’re striking a better balance for our province, where good projects that respect B.C.’s environment, Indigenous peoples and the public will be approved more quickly,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “Our province was built upon the wealth of natural resources at our disposal. This legislation reaffirms the continued importance of these resources to British Columbians and enhances public trust by engaging people and communities early to ensure our resources are used sustainably. Growing a strong economy and protecting the environment we all cherish go hand in hand. That’s the legacy we want our kids and grandkids to inherit.”
The Province hopes the environmental assessment process will enhance the public’s and Indigenous participation if passed, by keeping the First Nations communities more engaged and involved.
“Having Indigenous collaboration from the beginning means a more certain and efficient process where good projects can move forward more quickly, providing benefits to Indigenous peoples while respecting their rights, values and culture,” said Heyman. “We want to reduce the potential for the types of legal challenges we’ve too frequently seen in B.C. These have impacted our province’s economic development, eroded public trust, alienated Indigenous communities and left project proponents trying to navigate through a costly, time-consuming process.”
With more open engagement from the public and First Nations groups the Government will be able to better understand the needs of all parties included before making formal decisions.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs
“I am relieved that the day has finally come when we are beginning to see the legislative and policy shifts that are necessary and essential to facilitate genuine reconciliation. Recognizing Indigenous governments, laws, jurisdictions and decision-making is an essential part of this, and the legislation today is a small step in the right direction. The Province of British Columbia has committed to fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including free, prior and informed consent, and we are looking forward to seeing this realized on the ground through environmental assessments under the new process. We are hopeful that the new legislation will ensure the sustainability of our precious lands and waters for our children and grandchildren and all British Columbians. While much more legislative and policy change is urgently needed, today is a good day.”