Editor’s note: Cases in Brief such as this are prepared by communications staff of the Supreme Court of Canada to help the public better understand Court decisions. They do not form part of the Court’s reasons for judgment and are not for use in legal proceedings. This is quoted verbatim from the Supreme Court of Canada website. 

The entire 210 page judgement can be found in pdf form here. Attorney_General_of_Canada_v._Attorney_General_of_Alberta-en

From the Supreme court website:

In this case, the Supreme Court looked at the constitutionality of the federal environmental assessment scheme under the Impact Assessment Act, enacted by Parliament in 2019. The Court was asked to consider whether the Act and one of its regulations went beyond Parliament’s legislative authority under the Constitution.

The Act and the regulations establish a complex information gathering and regulatory scheme in two parts. One part, which is set out in sections 81 to 91 of the Act, establishes an impact assessment process for projects carried out or financed by federal authorities on federal lands or outside Canada. It requires the federal authority, in such cases, to decide if the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. If so, it must then be determined whether these effects are justified in the circumstances.

The other part, which includes the remaining provisions in the Act and the regulations, outlines what projects are considered “designated projects” under the Act and makes them subject to federal review automatically.

  • 0076 Latus only
    0076 Latus only
  • 0075 Fast Trucking OutlaW Buckers 01
    0075 Fast Trucking OutlaW Buckers 01
  • 0074 General Well Servicing Outlaw Buckers
    0074 General Well Servicing Outlaw Buckers
  • 0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
    0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
  • 0072 Outlaw Buckers and Oil Kings 2024
    0072 Outlaw Buckers and Oil Kings 2024
  • 0069 Sask Oil Show 2024 banquet tickets
    0069 Sask Oil Show 2024 banquet tickets
  • 0071 Pride Upkeep 2024 Packages
    0071 Pride Upkeep 2024 Packages
  • 0070 Sask Oil Show 2024 pre-register
    0070 Sask Oil Show 2024 pre-register
  • 0068 Sask Oil Show 2024 booth
    0068 Sask Oil Show 2024 booth
  • 0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
    0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
  • 0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
    0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
  • 0064 Estevan OTS
    0064 Estevan OTS
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
    0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0052 Predator Inspections
    0052 Predator Inspections
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001

 

Alberta’s Lieutenant Governor referred two questions with respect to this scheme to the province’s Court of Appeal — references are when governments ask courts for their legal opinion on a question of law. First, they asked whether the Act was unconstitutional, in whole or in part, as being beyond Parliament’s legislative authority under the Constitution (the legal term for this is ultra vires). Second, they asked whether the regulations were unconstitutional, in whole or in part, because they applied to matters entirely within the legislative authority of the provinces under the Constitution. A majority of the Alberta Court of Appeal concluded that the Act and the regulations were ultra vires Parliament and therefore unconstitutional in their entirety.

The Attorney General of Canada appealed this decision to the Supreme Court. Unlike the federal government, which can direct reference questions straight to the Supreme Court, provincial and territorial governments must first direct reference questions to their courts of appeal. However, provincial and territorial opinions can be appealed to the Supreme Court as-of-right (automatically), which means they do not require leave (permission) to be heard by the Court.

The Supreme Court has allowed the appeal in part.

Although the process set forth in sections 81 to 91 of the Act is constitutional, the balance of the scheme is ultra vires Parliament and thus unconstitutional.

Writing for a majority of the Court, Chief Justice Wagner ruled that the reference questions should be answered in the affirmative: the federal impact assessment scheme is unconstitutional in part. While the constitutionality of sections 81 to 91 of the Act was not challenged, Chief Justice Wagner said that the process set forth therein is constitutional. However, the balance of the scheme — that is, the “designated projects” portion — is ultra vires Parliament and thus unconstitutional for two overarching reasons. First, it is not directed at regulating “effects within federal jurisdiction” as defined in the Act, because these effects do not drive the scheme’s decision-making functions. Second, the defined term “effects within federal jurisdiction” does not align with federal legislative jurisdiction. The overbreadth of these effects exacerbates the constitutional frailties of the scheme’s decision-making functions, he said.

As Chief Justice Wagner wrote, “[e]nvironmental protection remains one of today’s most pressing challenges. To meet this challenge, Parliament has the power to enact a scheme of environmental assessment. Parliament also has the duty, however, to act within the enduring division of powers framework laid out in the Constitution”. Moreover, the Chief Justice noted that “it is open to Parliament and the provincial legislatures to exercise their respective powers over the environment harmoniously, in the spirit of cooperative federalism”, adding that “both levels of government can exercise leadership in environmental protection and ensure the continued health of our shared environment.”

  • 0076 Latus only
    0076 Latus only
  • 0075 Fast Trucking OutlaW Buckers 01
    0075 Fast Trucking OutlaW Buckers 01
  • 0074 General Well Servicing Outlaw Buckers
    0074 General Well Servicing Outlaw Buckers
  • 0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
    0073 SaskWorks-Pipeline Online
  • 0072 Outlaw Buckers and Oil Kings 2024
    0072 Outlaw Buckers and Oil Kings 2024
  • 0069 Sask Oil Show 2024 banquet tickets
    0069 Sask Oil Show 2024 banquet tickets
  • 0071 Pride Upkeep 2024 Packages
    0071 Pride Upkeep 2024 Packages
  • 0070 Sask Oil Show 2024 pre-register
    0070 Sask Oil Show 2024 pre-register
  • 0068 Sask Oil Show 2024 booth
    0068 Sask Oil Show 2024 booth
  • 0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
    0067 PFM SaskWorks Payroll Investment Plan
  • 0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
    0066 WBPC Promo video 30 seconds
  • 0064 Estevan OTS
    0064 Estevan OTS
  • 0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
    0063 Turnbull Excavating hiring crusher
  • 0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
    0062 TED_EPAC_Technology_30
  • 0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
    0061 SIMSA 2024 For Sask Buy Sask
  • 0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
    0058 Royal Helium Steveville opens anonymous rocket
  • 0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
    0055 Smart Power Be Smart with your Power office
  • 0052 Predator Inspections
    0052 Predator Inspections
  • 0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
    0051 JML Hiring Pumpjack assembly
  • 0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
    0049 Scotsburn Dental soft guitar
  • 0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
    0046 City of Estevan This is Estevan
  • 0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
    0041 DEEP Since 2018 now we are going to build
  • 0032 IWS Summer hiring rock trailer music
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0002 gilliss casing services
    0002 gilliss casing services
  • 9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
    9002 Pipeline Online 30 sec EBEX
  • 9001

 

BREAKING: Supreme Court majority rules against federal environmental impact law