Note: this guide is currently being updated to reflect new requirements of the Impact Assessment Act (2019).

June 2015

Approved by: Rob Prosper, Vice President, Protected Areas Establishment and Conservation Directorate, Parks Canada
Signed on: June 19, 2015

Note: This guide may be subject to modification from time to time in order to reflect changes in legislation or policy or to improve the practice of environmental impact analysis. Users of the Guide should consult with Parks Canada representatives to ensure that they are using the most up-to-date version.

Contact: Daniel Rosset, Manager, Impact Assessment Division, Natural Resource Conservation Branch, Parks Canada

Click here to download a more detailed version of this document (including appendices), available in PDF format (1.4 Mb)

Table of Contents

  1. Background and Introduction
  2. Integration of EIA into Project Planning
  3. Additional Considerations
  4. Tools and Resources for EIA

1 Background and Introduction

This guide describes the environmental impact analysis (EIA) process developed by Parks Canada to fulfill its requirements as a federal land manager under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (S.C. 2012, c. 19, s. 52) as well as its legal and mandated obligations to protect Canada’s natural and cultural heritage. The purpose of this guide is to provide Parks Canada staff as well as external proponents, stakeholders, partners and Indigenous groups an understanding of how the EIA process works, when an EIA must be undertaken and what Parks Canada’s requirements are for project proposals within a Parks Canada protected heritage place.

EIA is an important means for Parks Canada to:

  • Meet its obligation under CEAA 2012 to determine if the carrying out of a project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects;
  • Systematically, efficiently and pro-actively evaluate projects within protected heritage places to ensure they are as well designed as possible to avoid or reduce adverse effects, and
  • Achieve the Agency’s mandate to protect and present nationally significant examples of Canada’s natural and cultural heritage, and foster public understanding, appreciation and enjoyment.

1.1 Parks Canada’s Approach to EIA

Parks Canada’s legal accountability under Section 67 of CEAA 2012 (the Act) is to ensure that no project on the lands and waters it manages is authorized unless a determination is made that the project does not have the potential to result in significant adverse environmental effects. The Act provides discretion regarding how to conduct an analysis to determine whether or not a project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.

The Parks Canada Directive on Impact Assessment (2015) outlines the legislative and policy requirements and accountabilities for the assessment of impacts of proposed projects within Parks Canada protected heritage places. In keeping with its mandated priorities , Parks Canada’s EIA process examines how a project may lead to adverse effects on:

  • Natural resources – such as species at risk, air, ground and surface water, soils, habitat features, as well as plants and animals found in the vicinity of a project or otherwise potentially affected by it, and
  • Cultural resources – including potential adverse effects to heritage value and character defining elements of known cultural resources, and risks to areas with high potential to contain cultural resources where no inventory has yet been completed.

In addition the Parks Canada EIA process requires consideration of potential indirect effects of a proposed project; specifically, how the effects of a proposed project on natural resources may in turn cause:

  • adverse effects to characteristics of the environment important to key visitor experience (how the proposal is anticipated to affect activities and/or visitors’ enjoyment and connection to place, in relation to defined objectives for the protected heritage place);
  • adverse effects to health and socio-economic conditions of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, and
  • adverse effects to Indigenous people’s current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes.

Collectively, these types of impacts are referred to throughout this document as “environmental effects” or simply as “effects”.

1.2 Is an EIA Required?

One of the key objectives of Parks Canada’s EIA process is to ensure project review is conducted efficiently and that effort is focused on projects with the greatest potential for adverse environmental effects. This is accomplished through the selection of an appropriate EIA pathway, as the depth of analysis varies with each pathway, enabling alignment with the risk and likelihood of the project causing significant adverse environmental effects.

The EIA process should not be used as the means to obtain public, stakeholder and Indigenous input on policy decisions in relation to a project proposal; such engagement and consultation processes should be conducted separately from, and in advance of the EIA process. An EIA will not be undertaken until the policy decision on a project proposal has been made.

Determination of the need for an EIA and selection of the appropriate pathway is based on review of the project description.

  • If Parks Canada determines that there are no potential adverse environmental effects from a proposed project, no EIA will be required.
  • If there is potential for adverse effects, Parks Canada will evaluate which EIA pathway is appropriate.

This initial analysis of the requirement for an EIA is documented in a standard template (“the EIA Requirement Checklist"), which is approved by the Field Unit Superintendent (FUS) or Director of a Waterway, and provided to the proponent.

1.3 EIA Pathways

The EIA process includes four impact analysis pathways. Selection of an appropriate EIA pathway is based on the nature of the project’s interactions with the environment (i.e. the complexity of the interactions) and the project’s potential for significant adverse environmental effects (i.e. the level of environmental risk posed by the project). The four pathways are:

  1. Alternate Process
  2. Best Management Practice
  3. Basic Impact Analysis (BIA)
  4. Detailed Impact Analysis (DIA)

The four pathways are described in detail in Section 2.3 and the process used to determine the pathway is illustrated in Figure 1.

2 Integration of EIA into Project Planning

EIA work generally follows a sequence of predictable and methodical steps that should be integrated with the overall planning of your project proposal. Since the granting of authorizations to implement a project will not occur until the EIA has been completed, approved and the results taken into account in decision-making, it is important to gain a clear understanding of the EIA process and potential permitting requirements, in order to develop a realistic project timeline and avoid unnecessary surprises and delays. EIA work may also extend to follow-up requirements for approved projects. Additional detail on each of the following key steps is provided in subsequent sections.

  1. Development and submission of a project description
  2. Parks Canada review of the project description
  3. Selection of the appropriate EIA pathway
  4. Preparation of the EIA
  5. Parks Canada review of the EIA and determination of the significance of effects
  6. Parks Canada decision on the project proposal
  7. Project implementation and follow-up

Information on the Parks Canada EIA process is also available from Parks Canada Impact Assessment Officers. They can discuss the EIA requirements, answer questions and identify other review and permitting requirements that may be associated with a project proposal. Information on related legislative requirements under the Species at Risk Act, the Fisheries Act, the Navigation Protection Act, and the Migratory Birds Convention Act is provided in Section 3.

2.1 Development and Submission of a Project Description

Providing a detailed project description is the first step to having your proposed project considered by Parks Canada. It is used by Parks Canada to evaluate if your project is acceptable from a legal and policy perspective and if so, whether an EIA is required and the EIA pathway to be applied.

The development and submission of good quality project description information will facilitate and streamline the review of a project proposal. It is also work that can be incorporated directly into any EIA report that may be required.

The Parks Canada project description template, which outlines information requirements, is provided in Appendix 1; however, it is a good idea to contact Parks Canada staff from the protected heritage place where your project is proposed before commencing a project description, to confirm specific requirements. In general, a project description should provide a summary of the “who, what, where, when, why, how” of a proposed project: i.e. who is proposing and undertaking the work; what the project consists of; where the project will be sited (along with a description of natural and cultural resources and the adjacent built environment); when the project will be undertaken; why it is being undertaken, and how it will be carried out.

2.2 Parks Canada Review of the Project Description

Parks Canada will review submitted project descriptions for consistency with Parks Canada management objectives and requirements. This may include review by Parks Canada specialists in realty, planning, architecture, cultural resource management, archaeology and impact assessment. This initial review is conducted to identify any potential conflicts with legislation, Parks Canada policies and plans, management objectives, potential issues (such as cause for public concern), and to ensure the level of information is sufficient to facilitate the completion of an EIA.

Incomplete project descriptions or those with insufficient detail will be returned to the proponent with an overview of deficiencies to be addressed.

2.3 Selection of the Appropriate EIA Pathway

Each proposed project will be evaluated by Parks Canada to determine its potential to cause adverse environmental effects. As shown in Figure 1, no EIA is required if initial review of the project description by Parks Canada determines:

  • the proposed work is in relation to national security or an emergency situation as defined by CEAA 2012 (S.70); or
  • the same proposal was previously assessed in sufficient detail. In this scenario, Parks Canada would conduct an internal review and confirm with the proponent whether the previous assessment is adequate and applicable; or
  • the proposal is NOT likely to cause adverse effects to natural or cultural resources that require mitigation, AND there is no uncertainty or need for further investigation regarding the potential for adverse effects.

If a proposed work is considered likely to cause adverse environmental effects, it will be assigned to the EIA pathway deemed by Parks Canada to be the most appropriate to address the potential effects.

The EIA Decision Framework (Figure 1) and associated criteria (Appendix 2) will guide selection of the most appropriate EIA pathway in the context of the project and site-specific circumstances. The EIA Requirement Checklist will be used to document whether an EIA is required, and if so, which EIA pathway is to be applied. The Field Unit Superintendent/Director of a Waterway or their delegate approves this selection.

Flow chart describing the process for determining whether an Environmental Impact Analysis is required
Figure 1 - EIA Decision Framework

2.3.1 Best Management Practices

This pathway will be applied when Parks Canada has approved a set of pre-determined environmental management and mitigation measures for a defined class of routine, repetitive projects with well understood and predictable effects. Best Management Practices (BMPs) are intended to maximize efficiency for recurring, standard projects through creation of a pre-approved impact assessment that can be applied repeatedly to similar projects. BMPs may be developed at the field unit level, or national BMPs may be developed for local application and/or adaptation.

Parks Canada may determine that a BMP can be applied in whole, or in part, to mitigate adverse environmental effects of a proposed project. In circumstances where potential environmental effects can be fully addressed through one or more BMPs, no additional impact analysis is required. Parks Canada Impact Assessment Officers may make clarifications or additions to a BMP to provide improved protection for resources on a case-by-case basis although in general, a BMP is not applied if the potential adverse effects of a proposal are outside the scope of the effects the BMP was designed to address.

If approved BMPs only address some of the potential adverse effects associated with a project proposal, then the appropriate BMPs can be applied to streamline analysis and mitigation within another pathway (i.e. an approved alternate process, basic impact analysis, or detailed impact analysis). Parks Canada will advise proponents of any BMPs that may be applied to a proposed project along with any project-specific clarifications or additions.

2.3.2 Basic Impact Analysis

Basic impact analysis (BIA) is likely to be the appropriate level of review for projects where:

  • the adverse effects are predictable and well understood
  • the adverse effects will be confined to the project site or immediate surroundings
  • mitigation measures and impact management techniques are familiar

A BIA is usually conducted using a standard Parks Canada template that enables an EIA practitioner to lay out how a proposed project will interact with the environment, particularly with valued components such as specific natural or cultural resources. For projects subject to BIA, Parks Canada will provide the template, identify any BMPs that may be applied as part of the analysis, and provide other site and project-specific direction needed to complete the BIA. The level of detail in a BIA will vary dependent on the level of complexity and risk posed by the project. Generally, projects assigned to this pathway do not generate significant concern from public and stakeholders in relation to potential effects of the project proposal.

2.3.3 Detailed Impact Analysis

The most comprehensive level of assessment, a DIA, is intended for complex projects that require in-depth analysis of project interactions with valued components; that may affect a particularly sensitive environmental setting or threaten a particularly sensitive valued component. These types of projects may lead to high levels of concern from public, partner or stakeholders and Indigenous peoples in relation to the potential for adverse effects. DIA is the most intensive form of EIA required by Parks Canada and may require evaluation of alternatives, expert advice, and development of a follow-up monitoring program. In addition this level of EIA requires public engagement and consultation, including:

  • Notification from Parks Canada to relevant parties (the public, stakeholders, Indigenous peoples) of the decision to undertake a DIA for a project, and provide information on the planned EIA including a project summary, an overview of the valued components to be assessed, and an outline of planned review, engagement and consultation opportunities.
  • Opportunity to review and comment on the draft DIA, at a minimum, is required (the opportunity to review the draft Terms of Reference for the DIA may also be considered, at the discretion of the Field Unit Superintendent/Director of a Waterway).

The level of detail in a DIA and the type of engagement and consultation undertaken will vary from project to project and will be proportionate to the risk and likelihood of the project leading to significant adverse effects. Additional information on the DIA process is found in Appendix 2 – Guidance for Determining the Requirement for a DIA as well as in the “Parks Canada Detailed Impact Analysis Process Outline”, available from Parks Canada.

2.3.4 Alternate Process

In certain cases, a proposal may be subject to a planning or permitting process other than EIA. If Parks Canada has approved this additional process as providing an integrated means of meeting the legal requirements of CEAA 2012 , then a separate EIA is not required. Parks Canada will advise a proponent of any such process and of its requirements in the event this pathway can be applied. Please consult a Parks Canada Impact Assessment Officer for more information.

2.4 Preparation of the EIA

The EIA must be prepared by the proponent in accordance with guidance related to the EIA pathway selected for the project and any other specifications identified by Parks Canada.

  • For projects addressed through application of one or more BMPs, Parks Canada will provide the proponent with the BMPs, and any additions or clarifications regarding their use. The proponent must apply the BMPs in accordance with the conditions specified in the relevant Parks Canada permit or authorization. No additional impact analysis is required, provided all effects are addressed by the BMPs.

More detailed information on the BIA and DIA pathways is available from Parks Canada, including the template for conducting a BIA. Project-specific direction may also be provided by Parks Canada specialists for any of the EIA pathways. As previously mentioned, communications with Parks Canada staff is highly recommended early in the project planning phase.

2.5 Parks Canada Review of the EIA and Determination of the Significance of Residual Adverse Environmental Effects

Once a draft EIA that meets Parks Canada’s requirements has been prepared and submitted for review, a Parks Canada Impact Assessment Officer will evaluate, in accordance with the legal obligation under CEAA 2012, whether the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.

  • This step does not apply to projects fully addressed through BMPs, as Parks Canada’s decision to apply the BMP pathway reflects a determination that the project proposal will not result in significant adverse effects once the BMP is applied.
  • Any alternate process, BIA or DIA must include a step to determine the significance of any residual adverse effects (i.e. effects that cannot be prevented or avoided through the application of mitigation measures).
  • For a BIA or DIA done by an external proponent, Parks Canada will make the determination of significance following review of the draft submitted by the proponent. Some revisions are usually required as part of the review process before the final draft is submitted to the Field Unit Superintendent/Director of a Waterway for decision.
2.6 Parks Canada Decision on the Project Proposal

Once the significance of a proposed project’s adverse effects has been evaluated, a recommendation is made to the Field Unit Superintendent, Director of a Waterway or delegated manager who has the authority to finalize and approve the EIA. The Field Unit Superintendent, Director of a Waterway or delegated manager makes a decision regarding approval of the proposed project, taking into account the EIA determination of significance and any recommended conditions related to the project proposal. Permits and authorizations to implement a proposed project will not be granted until the EIA has been finalized and approved.
Note that if Parks Canada determines that a project IS likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, Parks Canada CANNOT authorize proceeding with the project, as per the legal requirements of CEAA 2012, Section 67.

2.7 Project Implementation and Follow-Up

Once an EIA is approved with a determination that there are no significant adverse environmental effects, project authorizations and associated permits for implementing the project can be issued. Parks Canada will integrate conditions of approval (e.g. mitigation, surveillance and follow-up monitoring requirements) into project authorizations and permits.

  • If a follow-up monitoring program is required, the duration of the monitoring program and any reporting requirements regarding the results of the program will be specified in project authorization documents and permits.
  • Parks Canada may require or conduct surveillance of the project throughout its implementation, to confirm work is being carried out in accordance with the conditions specified in the EIA and associated project authorizations and permits. Surveillance results will be documented, and the Field Unit Superintendent/Director of a Waterway may require corrective action be undertaken if surveillance results indicate the project is not being conducted in accordance with specified requirements.

3 Additional Considerations

3.1 Species at Risk Act Considerations

Species at risk are found in many protected heritage areas. Both the Species at Risk Act (SARA; S.C. 2002, c. 29) and CEAA 2012 require consideration of the potential effects of proposed activities to a species at risk, its residence or critical habitat. In addition, in certain circumstances, an authorization under SARA may be required. Parks Canada Impact Assessment Officers and Species Conservation and Management Specialists are available to provide advice to project proponents regarding species at risk requirements.

3.2 Additional Legislative Requirements

The following legislative requirements, which fall outside the authority of Parks Canada, may affect project scheduling and should be taken into consideration early in the project planning process.

  • When work is proposed in or around water, specific provisions of the Fisheries Act may apply to the project. It is the proponent’s responsibility to understand and address the requirements of the Fisheries Act, including determining whether there is a need to obtain advice on potential effects from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and the requirement for obtaining any authorization from DFO. Analysis of the potential for “serious harm to fish” should be integrated into the EIA and thoroughly documented. Prior to approving an EIA, Parks Canada must ensure the EIA adequately meets Fisheries Act requirements.
  • A permit from Transport Canada may be required for work in a waterway listed in the schedule of the Navigation Protection Act.
  • Requirements under the Migratory Birds Convention Act may also affect project timing, as the Migratory Birds Regulations prohibit the disturbance or destruction of nests and eggs of migratory birds. It is therefore important to identify nesting timing windows, particularly if the project includes the removal of vegetation that provides nesting habitat.

Additional information regarding these requirements can be found from the following sources:

3.3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Parks Canada manages several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including natural World Heritage Sites such as Nahanni National Park Reserve and Gros Morne National Park, and cultural World Heritage Sites such as the Rideau Canal (see the Parks Canada website for further information on Parks Canada World Heritage Sites). These sites are inscribed on the World Heritage List on the basis of the identified “Outstanding Universal Value” (OUV) of the site, which reflects the characteristics that contribute to the site’s international significance. For projects that may affect a Parks Canada-administered World Heritage Site, any potential effects to the OUV of the site must be considered during the project review. This approach is in keeping with the advice of the World Heritage Programme of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

3.4 Working With Other Federal Authorities

In some instances, there may be multiple federal authorities with a CEAA 2012 Section 67 responsibility involved in the review of a project proposal. In this situation, during project planning discussions, Parks Canada staff should ensure that all federal authorities involved in the project review are aware of Parks Canada’s EIA process and legal and mandate requirements. A lead authority may be selected to coordinate the environmental analysis of the project. Parks Canada may perform this federal coordination role, or for larger projects that extend outside of Parks Canada’s lands, the lead may fall to another federal authority. In this scenario, each federal authority retains the responsibility to make a section 67 determination with respect to the likelihood of significant adverse environmental effects.

For any project requiring federal coordination, Parks Canada will therefore conduct its own review of impact analysis documents and make a determination with regard to the significance of effects. In keeping with its legal and mandated priorities, Parks Canada must ensure the impact analysis and mitigations address potential effects to natural and cultural resources. Approval of the final report by the Field Unit Superintendent or Director of a Waterway is required.

3.5 Changes to a Project That Has Already Been Assessed

If a proponent proposes changes to a project or there is new information regarding the potential impacts of a project for which an EIA has already been conducted, the existing EIA may still be used, provided any project elements that were not previously assessed are added as an addendum and submitted for approval. The addendum should include:

  • a brief description of proposed changes
  • a list of additional environmental and residual effects
  • required mitigations
  • space for Parks Canada to make an updated determination of significance
  • a signature block for approval by the Field Unit Superintendent, Director of a Waterway or delegated manager.

The use of an addendum may not always be appropriate, depending on the scope of the proposed changes. The Field Unit Superintendents/Director of a Waterway will decide whether the use of an addendum is reasonable for a specific project.

4 Tools and Resources for EIA

4.1 Tools and Resources for Parks Canada Staff

The Impact Assessment page on the Parks Canada Intranet is the hub for additional information and helpful tools for EIA. Useful resources include copies of policy and process guidance, as well as templates and detailed information for preparing project descriptions, conducting surveillance, integrating SARA and Fisheries Act considerations into EIA, obtaining SARA authorizations, and conducting a BIA or DIA. In addition, there is access to a contact list of Impact Assessment Officers across the country and a link to the SharePoint site where BMP resources and the National Impact Assessment Tracking System are found.

4.2 Tools and Resources for External Proponents, Stakeholders, Partners and Indigenous Groups

Individuals external to Parks Canada will not be able to access the Parks Canada intranet, but are encouraged to contact a Parks Canada Impact Assessment Officer at the relevant protected heritage place in order to obtain additional information. For assistance in finding an appropriate contact, email Parks Canada at