Date of this Version
Since its introduction into Canada in 1973, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been controversial. Proponents argue that EIA is a practical means of achieving sustainable development because major projects are subject to an independent review before they are issued a license to proceed. However, the government's role in promoting resource-based development such as the ALPAC pulp mill (northern Alberta) and the Repap mills (northern Manitoba) has attracted considerable resistance. Public opposition to pulp and paper megaprojects in western Canada has reinforced the contradiction between the government's role as development promoter and as protector of northern resources and aboriginal populations.
Analysis of the ALPAC and Repap controversies indicates that the EIA process is a highly imperfect means of resolving environmental disputes. EIA in Western Canada is being held hostage to overriding political conflicts, notably the demands of economic development, such as provincial governments anxious to promote growth by selling their resources in global markets, and environmental preservation. This contradictory commitment to economic development and environmental preservation has been played out through the evolving EIA review process.