Home Month and Year January 2024 Canada’s Highest Court Charts a Reasonable Path on Environment

Canada’s Highest Court Charts a Reasonable Path on Environment

Cody Battershill

Now that some of the dust has settled around a recent – and significant – ruling from the Supreme Court of Canada, it might be a good time to recall how we got here.

The top court’s judgment, released in mid-October, saw a majority of Judges agree Canada’s Impact Assessment Act (IAA), formerly known as Bill C-69, falls considerably short in terms of Canadian law – and is largely unconstitutional.

While the ruling was part of a reference case in which governments effectively asked the courts for advice on the law, the ruling carries a great deal of weight. Traditionally, a ruling like this means legislators have their work cut out for them.

And if incoming communications were any indicator, companies, employees, contractors, suppliers and their families, whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous, largely felt the same way.

That explains why the Alberta government submitted the complaint back in 2021, stating C-69 attacked Alberta’s vital economic interests and would have a negative impact on future projects. That argument made its way through the Alberta judicial system and was ultimately accepted by the Supreme Court of Canada on October 13.

In some ways, the top court’s ruling is the end of a long road. More important, the Court’s ruling affirms much of what our organization, and many others who seek a balance of environmental, social and economic values, were hoping for during more than half a decade of discussing C-69.

One of our main objections with the Bill and its resulting Act was that our country spends billions annually to import oil from countries that don’t share our environmental or human rights standards while activist groups that want to shut in Canadian energy virtually never protest foreign oil tankers on our shores.

We felt strongly that foreign countries were getting a free pass from activists who attack our industry daily further contributed to that narrative. Further, we felt it was important to support Canadian jobs and attract more investment to Canada, rather than making things more difficult.

Our feeling and that of our allies who support the energy and natural resources sectors was that the mandatory consultation and review process was already immense. The Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project, for example, took three years simply to gain approval and C-69 would further cripple the sector.

The IAA would hinder not just the Canadian oil and gas industry on which our tax base depends, but any company or worker across Canada that supplies goods and services to the sector.

This issue has been a lingering controversy among energy-watchers, miners, pipe liners and others – and for good reason. Let’s hope as we move forward, we’re able to engage in balanced, informed conversations that foster a renewed ability to design, permit, build and maintain infrastructure that’s vital, safe and the envy of the world.

Cody Battershill is a Calgary realtor and founder / spokesperson for CanadaAction.ca, a volunteer-initiated group that supports Canadian energy development and the environmental, social and economic benefits that come with it.