Impact & Environmental Assessment:
It’s a Lot & We Can Get Great Things Done

A Recipe for Meaningful Assessments in a Time of Innovation, Modernization, and Uncertainty

October 23rd - 24th, 2024

Old Mill Toronto – 21 Old Mill Road, Toronto


Environmental Assessment (EA) and Impact Assessment (IA) practitioners are pulled in a lot of directions during the course of IA/EAs, with the goal of ensuring the process remains efficient, meaningful, informed, transparent, and inclusive. By prioritizing and focusing we can strike the correct balance ensuring robust, high-quality, and meaningful IA/EAs. So, while IA/EAs have become a catchall of ideas and aspirations, we can get great things done.

The conference will explore the notion of working in a time of innovation and modernization ensuring that the vision and principles for assessments are maintained all while not losing focus on the bigger picture questions.

Practitioners need to be well positioned to collect the right information, and conduct analysis with a view to maximizing outcomes and minimize impacts on Indigenous culture and traditions, health and socio-economic conditions, as well as archaeology, paleontology and the biophysical environment. With a vision to engage earlier and more effectively to build trusted relationships so that assessments can respond to the pertinent questions from participants at the onset rather than collecting information for information’s sake. Without questioning the bigger picture, we leave ourselves with the unsophisticated notion that EAs/IAs are simply too resource intensive.

Practitioners must also learn from Indigenous communities, respecting Indigenous knowledge as it should be and harmonizing this knowledge with western scientific methods in the assessment processes.

The complexity of information available to practitioners can seem daunting, this conference is intended to aid practitioners stay focused on the vision and not feel swung in different directions between streamlined processes, prioritizing information, and new technologies. The vision is for practitioners to learn to balance this wealth of information along with the emergence of new technology tools, mapping and database tools, and artificial intelligence. Are some practices more useful in certain circumstances? What does meaningful engagement look like on your project? Where is the sweet spot and how does the practitioner decide on it for different projects in different contexts?

The conference will explore three program areas:

Program Area 1 – Indigenous-led EA/IA Processes:

Exploring Indigenous and community-led assessments processes, what does the process look like and how does it differ from Federal, Provincial and Municipal processes.

Program Area 2 – Streamlining Processes, Prioritizing Information, and Asking the Right Questions:

If the process is too cumbersome and when we don’t collect the right information we slow down. Continued streamlining efforts are imperative, however we need to ensure this is done while adhering to the core principles (transparent, inclusive, informed and meaningful). An important and often overlooked component of improving efficiency is ensuring we get the right information at the pre-planning stage and pre-permit stages, not later during the decision-making stages. We need to look at the big picture at the onset of assessments and ask the correct questions early on to help focus our efforts. We also need to ensure these questions are in fact answered through the assessments and projects we deliver.

Program Area 3 – Value Relationships:

If we don’t engage the right regulators, stakeholders, and Indigenous Communities, at the outset of the project, we slow down. If we want to improve EAs/IAs, we need to initiate, develop, and foster relationships for the long term. When we don’t take the time to develop relationships, we lose the chance to develop trust. Without trust it is hard to effectively move forward.