The Bulldozing of an Ecoterritory
Guest Editorial by Lisa Mintz
[Editor’s note: on Sept. 26, The Montreal Times first broke the story of the bulldozing of part of the St. Jacques Escarpment, a “protected” Eco-territory. Since then, many other media have reported on it. Here is a variant of the op-ed by Lisa Mintz published Oct. 10 by The Gazette ]
Why am I surprised? Did I really think that eco-territories were protected from bulldozers? Did I really think there was such a thing as a democratic process? Did I really think that the Turcot and Quebec Ministry of Transport (MTQ) officials told me the truth? I was obviously a bit naïve.
When I first discovered the orange survey markers on the trees in the westernmost corner of the St. Jacques Escarpment (Fr: falaise) near the Montreal West Interchange, I was very concerned.
I am a bird watcher and the escarpment – a 20 hectare strip of green stretching alongside a concrete jungle, is home to 65 species of birds and an absolute birders’ paradise. It is also an important stop on their migration route.
At a Turcot public information meeting I was told that the markers related to the protection of the endangered brown snake found there. I was also assured, uncategorically, that there would be no destruction of the Escarpment. Now, this sounded really touching and heartwarming and I really wanted to believe it. So I did.
Imagine my shock and horror in mid September when I saw that the entire area marked off by the markers – roughly 10% of the St. Jacques Escarpment of untouched forest – was now a pile of earth.
It made me cry. Then it made me angry, and I went to another public information meeting about the Turcot project. The same lady as before said she had misunderstood which area I was asking about in April, although I had been very specific, describing the area in detail.
I found out that there was no specific plan regarding the escarpment that I was allowed to see; that the MTQ planned to eventually replant the area, but that I could not take any part in the decision-making process other than coming to Turcot meetings (ie: there would be no public consultation). Nor could I act as a watchdog, although I offered to volunteer my time.
I could, however, take their word for it that no more of the escarpment would be touched. Please don’t get me wrong. I understand that the Turcot project is a necessary infrastructure undertaking; what I object to is the lack of public consultation and disclosure for a $3.7 billion project. Shouldn’t we have some kind of say? Do you think we’re being lied to?
Lisa Mintz, a librarian, now has a Facebook page: “Sauvons la falaise”