Chief Ross Montour
Brittany Diabo
P.O Box 720
Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory Québec J0L 1B0
Brittany.Diabo@mck.ca

Dear Chief Montour,

Thank you again for your July 29, 2020, letter requesting a regional assessment in the St. Lawrence River area under subsection 97(1) of the Impact Assessment Act (the IAA). In my October 27, 2020 response to your request, I noted that there was a potential merit in conducting such a regional assessment, and directed the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (the Agency) to undertake further analysis and engagement to inform a final decision. Thank you for actively participating in that engagement process over the past several months, and for your follow-up letter of June 3, 2021, reiterating your desire to see this potential regional assessment move forward.

I have carefully considered the Agency's analysis and the input received throughout that engagement process, and have decided to proceed with a regional assessment in the St. Lawrence River region of Quebec pursuant to the IAA, for the following reasons:

  • A regional assessment could inform future project-specific federal impact assessments and decisions.

    As heard through the engagement process, there are current and foreseeable proposals for port infrastructure and other physical activities in the St. Lawrence River area that may be subject to impact assessment under the IAA. A regional assessment would likely inform and contribute to the effectiveness and efficiency of these future impact assessments, including by providing information, analysis, and a framework for future projects and their effects to be considered in the context of overall development and other activities in the region, particularly as it relates to cumulative effects.

 

  • There is anticipated development in the region that has the potential to cause adverse effects within federal jurisdiction, including cumulative effects.

    Information gathered throughout the engagement process indicate that the current and foreseeable developments referenced above could have effects within federal jurisdiction, including potential adverse effects on fish and fish habitat, wildlife listed under the Species at Risk Act, changes to the environment that could affect Indigenous peoples, and changes to the health, social, and economic conditions of Indigenous peoples.

 

  • There is potential for impacts, including cumulative impacts, to the rights of Indigenous peoples in the region.

    Throughout the recent engagement process, the Agency heard from First Nations in the area that current and proposed developments may, both individually and cumulatively, affect Indigenous rights, traditional lands and resources, socioeconomic conditions, health, and community well-being.

 

  • There are opportunities for collaboration with other jurisdictions, and for the involvement of others in the regional assessment.

    Participation in and the input received through the recent engagement process demonstrate there are opportunities to collaborate with the Province of Quebec and to involve Indigenous peoples, non-government organizations, and others in the planning and conduct of a regional assessment.

 

  • There is considerable public interest related to development and cumulative effects in the area.

    During the recent engagement process, the Agency heard concerns related to existing and future development and its effects (including cumulative effects), as well as strong support for a regional assessment in this area. The recent engagement process indicates clear interest from Indigenous peoples and stakeholder organizations in contributing to a regional assessment to inform impact assessments of future development, and to help address cumulative effects in the region.

 

Under section 93 of the IAA, where I am of the opinion that it is appropriate to conduct a regional assessment in a region that is not entirely composed of federal lands, I may enter into an agreement or arrangement with a jurisdiction to establish a committee or authorize the Agency to conduct the regional assessment. Under section 96 of the IAA, I must also establish the terms of reference for a regional assessment.

As a next step, I have instructed Agency officials to commence with the planning for this regional assessment, including discussions with the Province of Quebec regarding its potential participation in it. This planning process will also include involving Indigenous peoples and other governmental and non-government organizations in the design of the regional assessment, including its objectives, scope, and outcomes, as well as its governance structure and administrative procedures. I have requested that Agency officials provide me with an update on progress by the end of 2021.

Further questions regarding the regional assessment may be directed to Dr. Steve Bonnell, Manager, Strategic and Regional Assessment, by telephone at (709) 682-4192 or by email at stephen.bonnell@iaac-aeic.gc.ca. Agency officials will contact you in the coming days to discuss the regional assessment, and the continued participation of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke in its design and eventual conduct.

Sincerely,

<Original signed by>

The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, P.C., M.P.

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