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The Bulldozing of an Ecoterritory

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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”

 

 

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