Assessing Canada’s environment

Writers living in Canada at the turn of the 20th century suggested that the untainted wilderness in which they lived ended with the expansion of the northward railroad. In Gilbert Parker’s 1904 book, The Advent, the sight of the first locomotive sent the Inuit running in terror. Robert Wall’s 1930 novel, The Patriots, described Canada’s industrial development as “the unchecked silent assassin from the South”.

It is a long time since Parker and Wall’s Canada of the early 20th century, but the encroachment of development they wrote about remains relevant.

Some present day exploits are the Uranium mine in Walleston, Saskatchewan, the Athabasca Oil Sands project, and the controversial diamond mines in the North West Territories (NWT).

All these projects are subject to environmental impact assessments (EIA), a practice that began in the early 1970s when recognition of the adverse affects of industrial development prompted governments to legislate environmental protection policies. These policies, for the most part, oblige developers to carry out EIA before development begins and to hold public hearings.

Mostly, EIA in Canada grew out of the Qu


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