Call to create a National
Wildlife Area in Montreal

Green Coalition urges Trudeau government to use the Canada Wildlife Act to protect federal lands

By Gareth Richardson, Sylvia Oljemark, David Fletcher and Patrick Barnard

On December 3, 2020, a cohort of distinguished Montrealers addressed federal cabinet ministers asking for the creation of a National Wildlife Area to preserve the federally-owned portion of “the last large marshland and riverine ecosystem on the island of Montreal” that remains unprotected immediately north of Montréal-Trudeau International Airport.

The Trudeau government is being asked to be ambitious in this public letter, reflecting as it does a sense of urgency about Canada and Montreal having already lost 90% of their urban wetlands.

These environmentalists and officials referred in their open letter to what they called “the Technoparc wetlands and adjacent federal lands” in Saint-Laurent and Dorval, “200 hectares of rare natural environments the size of Mount Royal Park.”

The Trudeau government is being asked to be ambitious in this public letter, reflecting as it does a sense of urgency about Canada and Montreal having already lost 90% of their urban wetlands. Leading the signers of the appeal is the highly respected former Quebec Environment Minister, the Honourable Clifford Lincoln, and he is joined by a host of well-known figures: Elizabeth May, Luc Ferrandez, sitting West End Mayors – Bourelle (Beaconsfield), Brisebois (Senneville), Ektvedt (Baie-D’Urfé), Hawa (Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue), Marinacci (L’île-Bizard-Sainte-Geneviève) – as well as municipal councillors, along with Sophie Paradis of World Wildlife Fund Canada (WWF), Alain Branchaud of the Société pour la nature et les parcs (SNAP Quebec), and Joel Coutu of TechnoparcOiseaux.

Green Heron -

The Technoparc Wetlands are home to the Green Heron – Image: courtesy of Westmount Park United Church

These glorious wetlands just north of Montréal-Trudeau International Airport are becoming increasingly known and celebrated by Montrealers. In the last years, the leader of the 3,000-member birding group TechnoparcOiseaux, Joel Coutu, popularized the immense biological richness of the marshes. They have become the No. 1 bird observation site on the island, a place where 199 different avian species have been recorded.

Rodger Titman, globally renowned avian wildlife expert, has testified in Green Coalition vs. Ville de Montréal about the crucial importance of this remaining marshland and “the biodiversity below the birds,” among bushes, ponds, forests and meadows, all there for us to see.

‘… they [the Technoparc marshes] have become the No. 1 bird observation site on the island, a place where 199 different avian species have been recorded.’

“This habitat is being severely fragmented and there are plans to fragment it further,” says Titman. And he adds that we are in a situation now where “we need to ensure that not even the smallest marsh is lost.”

In fact, the last Speech from the Throne in September 2020, A Stronger and More Resilient Canada, explicitly connected the COVID crisis with preserving biodiversity of precisely the kind found adjacent to our airport. “The pandemic has reminded Canadians,” said the official text, “how precious nature is to them. The government will work with municipalities as part of a new commitment to increase the number of parks in urban areas so that everyone has access to green space.”

Prairie du Technoparc - Image : Jim Harris

Technoparc meadow – Image: Jim Harris

And in this case, the Government of Canada owns the major portion of the 200 hectares of this urban wildlife habitat. Only recently, Green Coalition board members have been in discussion with officials, including Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, urging the federal government to use the Canada Wildlife Act to designate the federal lands a National Wildlife Area in Montreal.

The Trudeau government must match its deeds with its words about the environment. Clifford Lincoln, thousands of birders, and many, many Montrealers are enthusiastic about the promise in the Speech from the Throne to increase local biodiversity and feel this commitment must be met. When a National Wildlife Area does come about next to those runways in Dorval and Saint-Laurent, that initiative will make our revived and ecological Montréal-Trudeau International Airport a wonder of the world.

Gareth Richardson is the President of the Green Coalition
David Fletcher is a Vice President of the Green Coalition
Sylvia Oljemark and Patrick Barnard are Board Members of the Green Coalition

Feature image: Aerial view of the Technoparc taken in October 2017, courtesy of Technoparc Montréal

Bouton S'inscrire à l'infolettre – WestmountMag.caRead other articles about the environment

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The Green Coalition is a non-profit association of groups and individuals with a mandate to promote the conservation, protection and restoration of the environment and the wise use of green and blue spaces.


There are 11 comments

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  1. Georges Dupras

    We congratulate the Green Coalition for their ongoing efforts to protect what is left of Montreal’s fast disappearing wetlands. There is little point in protecting wildlife if habitats to be fragmented, polluted or destroyed.

    There is a difference between political conservation and true conservation and it is hoped that someday we recognize the difference.

    Georges R. Dupras

  2. Anne Streeter

    Mr. Trudeau and M. Guilbeault please do the right thing! Protecting this piece of land is doable and so important for so many reasons. Don’t hesitate. Get the job done immediately!

  3. Louise Slattery

    This is an opportunity not to be missed. We must protect the few green spaces left in the Montreal area. They are so critical to wildlife which has suffered serious decline in the past decades due to habitat loss.

  4. Patrick Barnard

    The Green Coalition is continuing its meetings with federal officials. We are arguing for the government to use its ownership of the land of the airport marshes’ ecosystem to create a National Wildlife Area. In the last such meeting, Clifford Lincoln, former Quebec Environment Minister, very clearly told federal officials: “It is either Nature or Concrete — c’est la nature ou le béton!” For the moment, the Canadian federal government is timid and does not want to rock the boat — but our boat is sinking and the Liberal government needs to act now to save this precious marshland system, just as the above letter indicates.

  5. Carole Reed

    In the seventy years that I’ve lived on Montreal Island, I’ve witnessed the loss of so many beautiful forests and marshlands, along with the loss of species, some of which, like the little brown snake, are unique to our island. We have lost over 90% of our wetlands. Now is the time for the federal government to step up and do the right thing by preserving this rich ecosystem.

  6. Rev Neil Whitehouse

    I would add that the role of the airport as a sponsor and promoter of such a wonderful park, would allow ADM to distinguish itself and join an attractive small club of international hub airports that offset the environmental impacts of aviation with conservation and enhancement of wildspace. There is so much good to be done.

  7. Dr. Peter Graham

    When civilisation is collapsing because ecosystems are unable to withstand the loss of biodiversity, ubiquitous toxicity, and the unreliability of weather, everyone will understand what a no-brainer this is. Let’s do a better job with the global epidemic of idiocy than we did with the pandemic of covid-19. One world – one health. No more rampant destruction of natural heritage.

  8. Sue Stacho

    There is no time to wait! The federal government must enact legislation that would protect natural areas such as wetlands and forests in urban areas. We need these spaces to offset our polluted, over-heated and wildlife deleted cities. And before they are all lost to development, we need a moratorium on remaining spaces.

  9. Jim Harris

    In reference to loss of wildlife habitat, especially for birds, we often hear developers say that the birds will find a home elsewhere. Well guess what, the Technoparc Wetlands are that “elsewhere”. The only chance for these wetlands to continue to support the remarkable array of biodiversity they do currently is to remain contiguous and in relative terms, large. Nibbling around the edges with a new project here and a new project there will ultimately render them unusable by birds and other wildlife. To even consider building on them is the ultimate in self-serving marketing greed. Greed and nothing but greed, especially knowing that there is till plenty of land in the area that can be built on without damaging this vital and extraordinary wetland ecosystem.

  10. Al Hayek

    Local Governments for Sustainability states that “the current rate of biodiversity loss is faster than ever before, and if the trend continues one half of all species on earth will be extinct in 100 years”. The natural world is so beautiful and complex and still so little understood. If we destroyed all the artwork that humans ever made, it would be a tragedy, but nothing like the tragedy of destroying the intricate beauty of nature and its species. Wake up, Canada! Yes, it is going to be a decision you are unused to making. But do the right thing. Decades from now you will be the heroes of our age.

  11. Alison Hackney

    I recently read an article about the devastating human death rate during the heat wave in Montreal in 2018. Preserving habitat for birds and other wild creatures, preserving natural spaces: our survival may depend on this!

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