Mediation in Environmental Assessments in Canada: Unfulfilled Promise?

Meinhard Doelle

Abstract


The federal environmental assessment (EA) process and most provincial EA processes in Canada either specifically provide for mediation as an option or implicitly allow for it. In spite of this, the actual use of mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) has been almost non-existent in Canadian EA. There is an emerging view, however, that mediation could be applied usefully at points of the process when there is conflict among the parties. Such adjustments in process would signal the need for approval agencies and proponents to give serious consideration to more collaborative techniques of participation.

The objective of this article is to consider how mediation has been used to date, and whether it has a role to play in improving the effectiveness, efficiency and fairness of EA processes in Canada. This is accomplished through consideration of the use of mediation in recent years and the results of interviews with twenty EA practitioners. Findings show that mediation has been mainly used in the EA context in the province of Quebec. However, most respondents felt that there is potential for the use of mediation to strengthen EA. Based on our findings we conclude by outlining three potential ways mediation could be used in EA: as a tool within a traditional EA process to mediate contentious issues; as a process replacement for a procedural requirement; and as a way to find an interim solution to a policy gap identified in a project EA.

Keywords


Environmental Law

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