Background

Decision makers are already largely familiar with the environmental assessment process and the developments that trigger it. Those factors also affect archaeology: in response to studies conducted over the course of several years,54 the federal government spelled out the rules governing archaeology and development in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) and related documentation.

First, the Act is declared to cover both archaeology and palaeontology: section 2 (1) of the CEAA specifies that the law covers "any change that the project may cause in the environment, including any effects of such change...on physical and cultural heritage...or on any site or thing that is of historical, archaeological, palaeontological or architectural significance." Section 11 (1) of the CEAA states that the environmental assessment should be conducted as early as possible, preferably in the planning stages.55

The CEAA is supplemented by regulations. There is an inclusion list of work that requires an environmental assessment (EA),56 an exclusion list of work exempted from an EA,57 a list of applicable regulations58 and, for greater certainty, a further list of kinds of work affected.59 Once such a study is undertaken, the rules to be followed under the CEAA are those as explained by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, mentioned earlier. These are more specific than was the case under the earlier Federal Policy on Land Use and related documentation.60 For example, archaeology is cited repeatedly in the Guide to the Preparation of a Comprehensive Study for Proponents and Responsible Authorities (see sidebar page 24). Although a detailed review of provincial environmental assessment legislation would be beyond the scope of this publication, the general pattern is analogous to that described above.

EXTRACTS FROM THE GUIDE TO THE PREPARATION OF A COMPREHENSIVE STUDY FOR PROPONENTS AND RESPONSIBLE AUTHORITIES, BY THE CANADIAN ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT AGENCY
Appendix C: Suggested Content for a Comprehensive Study Report
7: Description of the Existing Environment

The description of the environment is not only to describe the existing environmental condition but also provides the foundation upon which environmental effects will be predicted and evaluated.... Examples of broad environmental characteristics include... archaeology and heritage resources...and local land uses (particularly the traditional use of the area by Aboriginal people).

8: Predicted Environmental Effects of the Proposed Project

This section should contain information on any change that the project will cause to the environment, more specifically to the valued ecosystem components identified in the previous section, and the effects of these changes on human health, socio–economic conditions, physical and cultural heritage and on current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes by Aboriginal people....

The self–directed environmental assessment must consider the environmental effects on physical and cultural heritage and to anything that is of historical, archaeological, palaeontological significance that would result from environmental changes.

In assessing effects on heritage, the environmental assessment should:

  • ensure the preservation and protection of sites and objects formally recognized at the international, national, provincial and municipal levels;

  • ensure that the consideration of heritage resources in the environmental assessment is consistent with existing laws and policies on heritage relevant within the project area;

  • recognize that a heritage site may have a cultural value greater than the apparent value of the site's physical components; and

  • take into account the unique cultural interests and values of Aboriginal peoples.

In addition, the assessment must consider:

  • cumulative environmental effects on physical and cultural heritage resources;

  • the significance of effects on these resources; and

  • technically and economically feasible measures that would mitigate any significant adverse effects on these resources.
10: Determination of Significance

The determination of significance and likelihood of residual environmental effects are at the core of the decision about the project. It will dictate whether a responsible authority can take a course of action with respect to the project, or whether additional consideration of the project is needed through public review.... factors used in determining whether or not environmental effects are adverse: [list including]...negative effects on historical, archaeological, palaeontological or architectural resources.