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Supreme Court Strikes Down Federal Impact Assessment Act Reference Case

Released on October 13, 2023

5-2 Decision Finds That The Federal Government Overstepped Constitutional Authority And Should Be More "Cooperative" With Provinces In The Future

Saskatchewan welcomes the Supreme Court of Canada's (SCC) 5-2 ruling against the federal government's environmental Impact Assessment Act (IAA), formerly Bill C-69.

"This decision is nothing short of a constitutional tipping point and reasserts provinces' rights and primary jurisdiction over natural resources, the environment and power generation," Justice Minister and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre said. "It should also force the federal government to reassess other areas of overreach, including capping oil and gas production and electrical generation. The IAA has stalled everything from Canadian highway and mine projects to LNG facilities and pipelines. It has thwarted investment, competitiveness and productivity across the country. This major decision will correct course."

The IAA received royal assent in 2019. In 2022, the Alberta Court of Appeal (in a 4-1 majority) held that the IAA was unconstitutional, violated the division of powers between Ottawa and the provinces, and took a "wrecking ball" to exclusive provincial jurisdiction under Section 92 and 92A of the Constitution Act, 1867. The federal government appealed the decision to the SCC. 

Last March, Saskatchewan was part of the constitutional intervention, along with seven other provinces, before Canada's top court, arguing that the IAA had exceeded federal jurisdiction. 

The majority recognized that the IAA is a clear example of federal overreach. Specifically, the Supreme Court majority held that the IAA's designated projects scheme, by which federal authorities could permanently put a project on hold was an "unconstitutional arrogation of power by Parliament" and "clearly overstepped the mark." The majority also found that the Act “grants the decision-maker a practically untrammeled power to regulate projects qua projects.”

In 2023, Saskatchewan passed The Saskatchewan First Act to counter the federal government's attempts to interfere in matters of provincial jurisdiction. The Act came into force on September 15, 2023.


For more information, contact:

Noel Busse
Justice and Attorney General
Phone: 306-787-8959

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