July 1, 2020 – Managing the challenges of participation in assessments during COVID-19
Affording opportunities for interested and potentially affected parties to participate in the assessment process is a central tenet of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act (YESAA). YESAB recognizes the challenges facing many individuals and organizations, in particular First Nations, to participate effectively in assessments during the pandemic. YESAB also strives to ensure a timely and efficient assessment process and acknowledges the importance of “restarting” the economy once restrictions associated with the pandemic are relaxed.
In April of this year, YESAB adopted a corporate approach to managing the challenges of participating in assessments during the pandemic. Assessments under YESAA are the first step in the review of development proposals in Yukon. As a result, YESAB needed to act quickly to address concerns arising from the pandemic by extending the periods for seeking views on all designated office evaluations to the maximum allowable under applicable rules. Under this approach, assessors could also further extend periods for seeking views, pause assessments or advance assessments absent the views of affected parties based on established criteria.
Where a potentially affected First Nation indicates that it intends to submit comments, but requires more time than the Rules permit, YESAB will extend the period for seeking views a reasonable amount of time to accommodate the First Nation.
YESAB committed to reviewing this approach and to providing further direction at the end of June if restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic remained in place. After communicating with industry and governments, including First Nations, YESAB recognizes that, while the ongoing pandemic may continue to challenge the ability of individuals and organizations to participate in the assessment process, Yukon will be moving into Phase 2 of the Government of Yukon’s Plan for Lifting COVID-19 Restrictions beginning in July. This will effectively relax some of the measures that may have limited timely participation in assessments. YESAB also recognizes that continued application of the corporate approach adopted in April may have negative economic implications. Consequently, YESAB wishes to advise you of the following changes to its approach effective July 1, 2020:
- A flexible project-by-project approach consistent with YESAA and applicable Rules will be followed.
- Circumstances related to the pandemic and other factors will be taken fully into account in setting the period for seeking views and information and in evaluating requests for extensions on a case-by-case basis.
- Where already established, the maximum 35-day period for seeking views and information for a project subject to a designated office evaluation will be respected.
- Assessments previously paused during the pandemic will now be subject to a minimum 14-day period for seeking views and information.
Yukon Envionmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board