What is an Impact Assessment?

A federal Impact Assessment is a planning and decision-making tool used to assess the potential positive and negative effects of proposed projects.

An Impact Assessment will help determine the proposed route HFR will travel, and identify how Canada’s new railway might affect the social, cultural, economic, built and natural environments. To understand potential impacts and determine how best to enhance the benefits and avoid or minimize potential negative effects, studies are conducted, data is collected, analyzed and interpreted, and people are engaged and consulted. This work is just beginning and the input of Canadians is important!

We are currently in the pre-planning phase of the Impact Assessment, which is followed by five main phases.

A chart demonstrating the Impact Assessment (IA) process. The IA process includes the pre-planning, Planning, Impact Statement, Impact Assessment, Decision-making and Post Decision phases, in this order. The pre-planning phase is identified as the current position of the Project, with a ‘we are here’ label.


Through this phase, Indigenous Peoples and the public will be engaged and project information will be provided to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC) so that a decision can be made on whether an Impact Assessment (IA) is required. If an IA is necessary, IAAC will issue a Notice of Commencement and post the final Tailored Impact Statement Guidelines and related documents, that outline the information and studies necessary to conduct the IA.

Impact Statement

Proponents—or project owners—will receive direction from IAAC on the information and studies necessary to complete the Impact Statement; Indigenous Peoples and the public will help shape this direction by reviewing and providing input on draft guidance documents. Scientific study and Indigenous Knowledge help inform the Impact Statement.

Impact Assessment

IAAC’s assessment will consider the Proponent’s Impact Statement when identifying the potential environmental, health, social and economic effects of the proposed project. The potential effects on Indigenous and treaty rights will be assessed and subject to consultation. The information gathered is then used by the Agency (or review panel) to develop an IA report.


Public interest is at the centre of decisions around projects. The IA report and outcomes of Crown consultation will inform the Minister’s or Governor-in-Council’s decision on whether a project's adverse effects and planned mitigations are in the public interest. If yes, the Minister will establish conditions—included in a Decision Statement—for the Proponent to follow. Decision Statements will set out the rationale for the decision, providing transparency and accountability.


Post-decision, IAAC will actively verify compliance with Decision Statements and correct any non-compliance issues, helping to provide greater transparency around any follow-up programs and increased access to key documentation. Opportunities for Indigenous and community participation in follow-up and monitoring programs will be created.

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