B.C. environmental assessment review targets public confidence, reconciliation
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VICTORIA — Environment Minister George Heyman says the government will review how it conducts environmental assessments of projects in British Columbia.
The review announced Wednesday will focus on restoring public confidence in the assessment process, ensuring respect for Indigenous legal rights and protecting the environment while supporting sustainable growth, he said.
"For too long in B.C. proponents of significant economic developments have faced uncertainty," Heyman said. "I think that's because the public has lost trust in the process, we've seen conflict with First Nations and industry has simply not known clearly what the conditions are."
He said the recommendations of a 12-member advisory committee will lead to reforms of the assessment process expected to be introduced this fall.
Ecologist Bruce Fraser and Lydia Hwitsum, a lawyer and former Cowichan Tribes chief, will lead the review, which will include meetings with Indigenous groups and environmental, industry and community officials.
"What British Columbians want to know is we are going to stay out of the courts with First Nations because we are working with them as partners," Heyman said. "They also want to know that we can have sustainable economic development in B.C., that the process to approve projects is science based and also relies on Indigenous knowledge and is timely."
Premier John Horgan directed Heyman to revitalize the environmental assessment process last year in order to meet the public's expectations of a transparent process.
Green party environment spokeswoman Sonia Furstenau said the review is a first step towards restoring public trust in the province's environmental assessment process.
"A robust environmental assessment process that includes adequate consultation and thorough scientific, evidence-based analysis will avoid costly legal challenges and save government from dealing with expensive clean-ups when projects go awry," she said in a statement.