Statement from Phil Pothen, Environmental Defence Counsel, on discontinuation of the current Federal Impact Assessment of Highway 413 Canada–Ontario Memorandum of Understanding on the Assessment of Effects in Areas of Federal Jurisdiction of the Highway 413 Project

Toronto | Traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishinaabeg, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat – Today’s announcement that the current federal impact assessment of the proposed  Highway 413 has been discontinued underlines the urgent need for Canada’s federal government to swiftly introduce and pass an updated Impact Assessment Act and to re-designate the highway for assessment under the new statute as soon as it is in force.

Problems with the current Impact Assessment Act always meant the current assessment designation of Highway 413 would eventually need to be discontinued and re-instituted under an updated version of the law. The Ontario public’s expectation is that Highway 413 will be re-designated fast enough to ensure that the provincial government does not have time to destroy key habitats or waterways during a gap in protections.

Neither today’s court order, nor anything about the Canada-Ontario Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) released today alters the expectation -and Ontario residents’ demand- that Minister Guilbeault and the federal government will quickly re-designate Highway 413 for federal Impact Assessment under an updated Impact Assessment Act. 

It is important to note that the Canada-Ontario MOU expressly states that Canada does not “giv[e]  any jurisdiction, right, power, privilege, prerogative or immunity by virtue of this Memorandum of Understanding or any subsidiary agreements resulting therefrom…” and that “Nothing in this Memorandum of Understanding will prejudice the implementation of either Party’s jurisdiction or legislative authorities or fetter the discretion of any statutory decision maker.” This statement underlines just how many iron clad grounds there are for the federal government to act in its areas of jurisdiction and to proceed with re-designation in particular.

If the federal government were to decide not to re-designate Highway 413 for an impact assessment, that would not be a consequence of today’s court order – or this Memorandum of Understanding with the Ontario government.  Rather it would be a willing and reckless betrayal of everyone in Ontario who is experiencing unprecedented attacks on their communities by the provincial government and has trusted federal MPs to do their job and protect the environment rather than colluding with the province in its destruction. 

ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE ( Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian environmental advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.

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For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Carolyn Townend, Environmental Defence,