by John Symon – mtltimes.ca
Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada (GPC), stood beside the marshes of Technoparc in Ville St Laurent (VSL) on August 10, calling on federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna to intervene and protect endangered species in the way of a construction project.
“The GPC stands with all those who are fighting to save the last remaining jewels of biodiversity on the Island of Montreal… endangered Least Bitterns and other rare birds need to be protected. I am calling on the federal government to do its job,” said May. She referred not only to the federal Species at Risk Act, but also to an international treaty signed by Canada to protect migratory birds.
There are multiple sitings of Least Bitterns (Canada’s smallest heron) in this area: the total Canadian population is estimated at only 1,500. Some sitings are of fledglings, indicating that the bird nests here. Wood Thrushes, another endangered species, have also been observed. The GPC accuses the Quebec Environment Ministry of issuing a Certificate of Authorization in 2013 based on a flawed environmental assessment that did not note the presence of endangered species.
Municipal permits have already been issued to extend Alfred Nobel Blvd into or beside the marsh, and to construct buildings here, including the Hubert Reeves Eco-Campus. The REM electric train is also supposed to pass through this area with the construction of a train station nearby. But the federal government still has the power to intervene and halt these projects.
While Montreal has plans to preserve part of the marsh and create a new, 45 hectare nature park in the area, other parts of the marsh are destined to be drained and land-filled. Environmentalist Lisa Mintz said that this new park will not be enough to save the endangered species.
“Since no frog, bird, or snake will ever make a political contribution, our governments have quit protecting our environment,” cynically commented Ricardo Hrtschan, a lawyer and former politician who stood with May, members of the Green Coalition, and birdwatchers beside the marsh.
Joel Coutu, a noted ornithologist, describes the marsh as “a giant birdfeeder” that attracts many species of rare birds. “Some nest in trees, some nest in shrubs, some nest on the ground. Construction will suffocate this marsh, leaving only ducks and geese.” Coutu previously told us that the Bitterns are very shy and any construction in this area will likely chase them away permanently.
Environmentalists also raised concerns how native vegetation will likely be replaced by grass, attracting ducks and geese. Daniel Green, deputy leader of the GPC pointed out that ducks and geese can pose a real security problem for jet airplanes at the nearby Trudeau Airport.
“If Quebec does not act, Ottawa must,” said Green. He also said that construction projects could be built on abandoned industrial land instead of on green space, citing the new MUHC hospital in NDG.
May noted the presence Wednesday of Quebec Green Party leader Alex Tyrrell who supports the GPC on this dossier. This may be the first time that the two parties have worked together.