Strategic Environmental Assessment

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is a systematic way to evaluate the environmental effects of a proposed policy, plan or program. The information it provides helps managers, ministers and Cabinet make decisions by giving them information about:

  • The potential positive and negative environmental effects of a proposal; and
  • How to enhance positive environmental effects and reduce or avoid the harmful ones.

SEA allows our decision makers to contribute to Transport Canada's sustainable development objectives because it factors environmental considerations into the early stages of developing and analyzing policy, plan and program proposals.

The Government of Canada’s first Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS) came into effect on October 10, 2010. The FSDS strengthens the conduct of SEAs for proposed policies, plans, and program and represents a government-wide approach and strategy for achieving sustainable development. It sets out environmental priorities in its eight goals and corresponding targets, sub-targets and implementation strategies. The four environment themes of the FSDS are:

I.    Addressing Climate Change and Air Quality
II.   Maintaining Water Quality and Availability
III.  Protecting Nature
IV.  Shrinking the Environmental Footprints (Greening Government Operations)

To ensure the Government’s environmental priorities are integrated into decision-making, Transport Canada evaluates each proposed policy, plan, and program on its effects and contributions (positive or negative) to the FSDS goals and targets. This applies to all proposals assessed under the two tiers of the SEA process of Preliminary Scans and SEAs (formerly referred to as "Detailed Analysis").

A Preliminary Scan screens proposals for potential, important environmental effects, which can be either positive or negative. If important environmental effects are identified, a SEA is required.

By addressing potential environmental considerations of policy, plan, and program proposals, we are better able to:

  • Make the most of good environmental effects and minimize or mitigate the harmful environmental effects of a proposal;
  • Consider potential total environmental effects of proposals over time;
  • Put the FSDS into action;
  • Save time and money by drawing attention to potential costs for environmental clean-up and other unforeseen concerns;
  • Streamline project-level environmental assessment by eliminating the need to address some issues at the project stage;
  • Raise public and stakeholder confidence in our decisions; and
  • Contribute to broader governmental policy commitments and obligations.

The requirement to undertake the SEA process is stated in the Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals (Cabinet Directive).

Strategic Environmental Assessment process at Transport Canada

The concept of SEA, and the department's approach to it, are outlined in the Transport Canada SEA Policy Statement.

In accordance with the Cabinet Directive and the SEA Policy Statement, all proposals submitted to an individual Minister or Cabinet for approval must go through the Transport Canada SEA process, which includes a Preliminary Scan and, if required, a SEA in the form of a Detailed SEA.

First, proposals must undergo a Preliminary Scan to determine if important environmental effects are likely. The Scan will also examine if the proposal is likely to lead to one or more projects that would be assessed under the CEAA or another process. If the Scan determines that there are no major environmental impacts, the SEA process is considered complete.

Secondly, if important environmental effects, either positive or negative, are likely, a Detailed SEA is to be undertaken. In this case, a Public Statement must be made at the time that the policy, plan or program is announced, outlining the results of the SEA.

Transport Canada's Public Statements

Consistent with the Cabinet Directive, Transport Canada undertakes a Detailed Strategic Environmental Assessment when proposals identify potential important (positive or negative) environmental effects in a preliminary scan. Provided below are links to Public Statements for proposals which have undergone a Detailed Strategic Environmental Assessment at Transport Canada:

To learn more about Transport Canada’s SEA program and/or the National Environmental Management System, please email

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