Strategic Environmental Assessment

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is a key analytical tool used by the federal government to support environmentally sustainable decision making. It evaluates the environmental effects of a proposed policy, plan, or program and its alternatives, and informs strategic decision-making through a careful analysis of environmental risks and opportunities.

SEA facilitates the integration of environmental considerations early in the policy development process in order to reduce adverse effects on the environment, including effects of such environmental changes on health and socioeconomic conditions. Key benefits of SEA include identifying measures to enhance positive environmental effects and mitigate negative ones. SEA also helps to streamline the environmental assessment of projects by eliminating the need to address certain issues at the project stage, and enables consideration of cumulative environmental effects.  The SEA process also promotes policy coherence by supporting the environmental sustainability objectives set out in the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS).

Federal SEA requirements are set out in the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals. Federal departments and agencies, including Environment Canada, are obligated to conduct a SEA for any policy, plan, or program submitted to an individual Minister or to Cabinet for approval where implementation of the proposal could result in important environmental effects, either positive or negative. Results of SEAs are communicated through public statements and in Departmental Performance Reports.