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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An evaluation of health impact assessment in Canada using four case studies from the mining industry McCaig, Karen


In Canada, health impact assessment is part of the Integrated Environmental Assessment framework. This thesis addresses previously expressed concerns regarding a lack of health impact assessment in Integrated Assessment frameworks and examines how thoroughly human health has been taken into consideration in the environmental assessments that have been conducted for new mining developments in Canada. Using an evidence-based policy analysis approach, four case study environmental assessments that have been reviewed by public panel under full or partial responsibility of the federal government of Canada were examined retrospectively and discussed in context of the recently published Canadian Handbook on Health Impact Assessment. Information regarding the case studies was gathered primarily from formal environmental assessment documentation. State of knowledge was identified from a review of health science literature. The performance of health impact assessment was assessed by comparing scope of health impacts considered during each environmental assessment with the state of knowledge. The impact of the consideration of health impacts on the governments' final decision was evaluated by comparing the scope of health impacts considered in the panel report and those in the government(s') reports. These comparisons were facilitated using a tool, developed as part of this work, which integrates attributes of mining lifecycle, impact pathway, and determinant of health categories to provide a visual and informative snapshot of the scope of human health impacts. The results indicate that environmental assessments have been predominantly concerned with effects of direct and ecosystem mediated exposures to chemicals on affected communities and have had an impact at the decision-making phase. The limited use of scientific knowledge regarding other environmental hazards or occupational and social health factors are found to be a product of the unique processes which have resulted from the ambiguous legislation and scoping exercises of the past. In conclusion, while the Canadian Handbook on Health Impact Assessment has considerable potential to improve upon past practices, the increasing development of confidential Impact and Benefits Agreements (IBAs) between proponents and communities may negatively impact the further development and effectiveness of health impact assessment of mining operations in the long term.

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