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.
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.”
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
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.