1. Strategic Environmental Assessment Policy

The policy will guide the department’s implementation of the 2010 Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals (the Cabinet Directive) and supporting Guidelines which outline key government requirements for Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA).

2. Definitions

Strategic Environmental Assessments (SEA): A SEA is a comprehensive evaluation by departments of the important environmental effects (positive and negative) of their Proposals to Ministers.  A SEA informs strategic decision-making by the Government through careful analysis of environmental risks and opportunities. 

Proposal: A Proposal is any program, plan or policy presented to the Minister or Cabinet for consideration. A Proposal can include a Deck presentation, Memorandum to Cabinet, Aide Memoire, or a Ministerial Recommendation; a Treasury Board Submission; a Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement; or other planning document for resource allocation, such as a Budget letter.

Proposal Lead: The lead on developing the SEA is the director responsible for developing the Proposal.

Public Statement: A public statement indicates the expected environmental effects of a Proposal. The statement may be part of the Government’s general announcement on the Proposal or provided as a stand-alone communication by the Minister. 

Environmental effect: Any direct or indirect effect on the environment (i.e., air, water, land and all interacting natural systems) that can be attributed to the Proposal’s implementation, including on health and socio-economic conditions, on physical and cultural heritage, on the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by Aboriginal persons, or on any structure, site or thing that is of historical, archaeological, paleontological or architectural significance.

Direct effect:  An environmental effect that is:  a change that a project may cause in the environment; or a change that the environment may cause to a project.  It is a consequence of a cause-effect relationship between a project and a specific environmental component.

Indirect Effect:  A secondary environmental effect that occurs as a result of a change that a project may cause in the environment. An indirect effect is at least one step removed from a project activity in terms of cause-effect linkages. For instance, a river diversion for the construction of a hydro power plant could directly result in the destruction of fish habitat causing a decline in fish population. A decline in fish population could result in closure of an outfitting operation causing loss of jobs. Thus, the river diversion could indirectly cause the loss of jobs.

Important environmental effect:  Important environmental effects are environmental effects that need to be managed because they may affect the achievement of government commitments (e.g., the goals and targets in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy); reflect public, stakeholder or Aboriginal concerns; affect the number, location, type and characteristics of sponsored initiatives; or raise significant risks or uncertainties to the environment that may affect Canadians’ health and well being (e.g., application of new technologies).

3. Framework 

Industry Canada’s SEA policy is based on the following five framework texts: i) The Department of Industry Act; ii) the Federal Sustainable Development Act; iii) the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy; iv) the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals (2010); and v) the Guidelines for Implementing the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals (2010).

3.1 Department of Industry Act

The Department of Industry Act (S.C. 1995) is the department’s founding legislation. The Act mandates the Minister of Industry to “strengthen the national economy and promote sustainable development.”           

3.2 Federal Sustainable Development Act

The Federal Sustainable Development Act (S. C. 2008) requires that the government develop a Federal Sustainable Development Strategy and update it every three years.  It also requires departments to develop annual departmental strategies.

3.3 Federal Sustainable Development Strategies

The 2010-2013 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy supports sustainable development decision-making by the government and establishes environmental sustainability as a long term priority.  The Strategy establishes environmental goals and targets under the four themes of Air, Water, Nature and Greening Government Operations, as well as implementation strategies for each target.  Industry Canada has seven implementation strategies under Theme 1: Air, and specific targets under Theme 4: Greening Government Operations. A full list of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy goals and targets is provided in Annex Five.

3.4  Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals

The 2010 Cabinet Directive states that a preliminary SEA scan is to be completed for all Proposals presented to a Minister or to Cabinet for consideration. 

A full SEA is only required when the following conditions are met:

  • a Proposal is submitted to a Minister or to the Cabinet for consideration; and
  • the Proposal’s implementation may result in important environmental effects, (positive or negative; direct or indirect) in Canada or abroad.

A full SEA can also be completed in cases where strong stakeholder reaction to the Proposal is expected or the environmental effects are uncertain. The Cabinet Directive states, however, that the effort in preparing the analysis should be commensurate to the magnitude of the anticipated effects.

3.5 Guidelines for Implementing the Cabinet Directive on the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals

The 2010 Guidelines state that:

  • Ministers are responsible for ensuring their Proposals are consistent with the government's broad environmental objectives and sustainable development goals, as described in the 2010-2013 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy.
  • Departments are responsible for taking economic, social and environmental considerations into account when making informed decisions in support of sustainable development.
  • Departments are also responsible for reporting on the extent and results of their SEA practices in annual Reports on Plans and Priorities (RPP) and Departmental Performance Reports (DPR). The DPR reporting must include a description of how plans, programs and policies subject to SEA have affected or are expected to affect progress towards the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy's goals and targets. 

4. Policy Purpose

The updated SEA policy outlines Industry Canada’s commitment to conducting high quality SEAs (preliminary scans and full reviews) that address the requirements of the 2010 Cabinet Directive, the supporting Guidelines and the goals and targets of the 2010-2013 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy

The SEA policy also reflects Industry Canada’s interest in integrating sustainability considerations into its decision-making, consistent with commitments in the 2011 and 2012 departmental strategies on sustainable development.

5. Policy Implementation

The Department is fulfilling its responsibilities on SEA implementation by:

  • incorporating the 2010-2013 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy’s goals and targets into Industry Canada’s SEA policy and questionnaire for conducting preliminary scans and full assessments;
  • clarifying the mandatory requirements for completing preliminary scans, full SEAs and public statements in the SEA Policy and Questionnaire, strengthening accountability consistent with the 2010 Cabinet Directive and Guidelines;
  • encouraging officials to also complete full SEAs in situations where strong stakeholder reaction to the Proposal is expected or the environmental effects are uncertain, supporting greater transparency;
  • identifying advisory and other resources in the Department to support high quality and timely completion of SEAs, allowing for early-stage identification and integration of environmental considerations into Industry Canada decision-making.

6. Policy Resources

The Industry Canada SEA Advisor is available to provide advice and guidance to Proposal Leads at each step in the SEA process.  Training material will also be made available on the ICwiki. 

Additional support, if required, is also available from SEA experts at Environment Canada (EC) and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA).

7. Policy Application

Industry Canada’s Strategic Environmental Assessment Policy applies to all Industry Canada employees involved in the development of Proposals for Ministerial or Cabinet consideration.

8. Policy Accountability

The Deputy Head of Industry Canada is responsible for the SEA Policy’s implementation. 

9. Policy Review and Evaluation  

One year after it comes into effect, the Policy will be reviewed by Strategic Policy Branch in consultation with sectors.  Thereafter, it will be evaluated on a three-year cycle consistent with the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy cycle, to ensure that it remains aligned with the government’s broader environmental objectives, directives and guidelines.

10. Enquiries

If you have any questions about the SEA process, please contact Industry Canada’s SEA Advisor, Georgina Wainwright Kemdirim, Strategic Policy Branch, at (613) 948-7277.

11. Effective date

Industry Canada’s updated SEA policy comes into effect in July 2013.

12. Annexes

Updating of the annexes will not require an amendment to the policy.

Annex One: SEA Process and Questionnaire

Annex Two:  Guidance for authors of SEA Public Statements

Annex Three:  Guidance for authors of Treasury Board Submissions

Annex Four:  Guidance for authors of Regulatory Impact Analysis Statements

Annex Five:  Federal Sustainable Development Strategy goals and targets

Annex Six:  Relevant documentation