Hundreds rally to save l’Anse à l’Orme;
Why build homes on green space?
By: John Symon – mtltimes.ca
An estimated 250 people gathered at Montreal City Hall on May 16 to protest plans to build 6,000 homes on the last large, unprotected green space on Montreal Island. Opposition politicians, environmentalists, trade unionists, and others took the microphone, condemning the 185-hectare Cap Nature housing plan in Pierrefonds west that is supported by Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre.
Luc Ferrandez, leader of the main opposition party, Projet Montréal, claimed that Mayor Coderre, “is unconnected to reality when it comes to this project. The mayor was born in 1965 and his thinking is still from 1965,” said Ferrandez. This was in apparent reference to how appreciation for the importance of preserving green spaces has grown in past decades.
Justine McIntyre, a councillor from Pierrefonds and leader of Montreal’s Vrai Changement party, mocked the Coderre administration for calling the proposed Cap Nature housing development a “conservation plan.” The wet meadows of western Pierrefonds are documented to harbour rare and endangered species; their habitat will be destroyed by the housing project.
David Fletcher of the Green Coalition spoke about how southwestern Quebec has the richest biodiversity of the whole province and we cannot afford to lose any more green space; Dimitrios Roussopoulos of the Urban Ecology Centre claimed that Montreal will never be an ecological city until it first becomes a democratic city; Irwin Rapoport of Les Amis du Parc Meadowbrook noted that there are numerous other places where houses can be built. There were also calls for a moratorium on all green space development on Montreal Island.
Many demonstrators carried placards depicting Mayor Coderre with a chainsaw. Others carried signs saying “Crap
Nature,” mocking the name of the proposed housing development. The boisterous rally was organized by CEGEP students from Collège Gérald-Godin on the West Island. Students from other CEGEPs across Quebec also attended. Police blocked off Notre Dame Street in front of City Hall for about one hour during the demonstration.
Also sharing the stage with the l’Anse à l’Orme protestors were Les Amis du Parc Rutherford which opposes building a synthetic soccer field in downtown’s Rutherford Park. Among other concerns, this group claims that synthetic turf leaches cancer-causing chemicals. Underneath the park is the McTavish reservoir from which some 500,000 Montrealers take their drinking water.
While most protestors demonstrated noisily outside, a few went into the council chamber inside City Hall to ask questions of their elected officials. Al Hayek of the Green Coalition claims that Russell Copeman, the Montreal Executive Committee member responsible for housing, urban planning, and real estate transactions, told him that the Cap Nature project is not in an eco-territory.
“I’m going to go back and show him a map!” promised Hayek. Copeman was also apparently evasive about whether his administration would follow recommendations on the project from the Office of Public Consultation.