Do the right thing and
put the plant elsewhere
Proposed location for Meltech Canada project is unsuitable but there are alternatives available
By Patrick Barnard
July 15, 2021
A consultation is now underway to evaluate the project proposed by Meltech Canada, an affiliate of the Medicom Group, to build an industrial plant for manufacturing medical mask material on the northern section of lot 5 599 104 on Chemin de l’Aviation in Dorval, Quebec.
My name is Patrick Barnard. I am a member of the Board of the non-partisan Green Coalition here in Montreal, and I write and make video materials about the environment. Like a number of other citizens, I wish to indicate why the proposed location for this project – part of Dorval’s Monarch butterfly fields – is so unsuitable and how a solution can be found to the present dilemma.
In the last two generations, Canada and Québec have lost 90% of our urban wetlands. The main reasons for this devastating result are urban sprawl and habitat fragmentation.
Radio-Canada, the Journal de Montréal and Métro have all reported about the Monarch fields and the $29 million of taxpayer money that will be used to damage them if the proposed site remains the chosen one. Amid the media attention, probably the best summation of the environmental issues at stake here is the recent description of the problem set out by Allison Hanes in the Montreal Gazette.
In this submission to the consultation, I wish to stress three inter-related realities.
- Urban Wetland Loss
In the last two generations, Canada and Québec have lost 90% of our urban wetlands. The main reasons for this devastating result are urban sprawl and habitat fragmentation. (I have just published a history of Montreal and the loss of its natural spaces in Part I of A Citizen’s Guide To City Politics: Montréal, Black Rose Books, 2021.)
The Technoparc wetland-riverine system, which includes the Monarch butterfly fields, is full of areas that have been renaturalized. For example, lot 5 599 104 is part of a now unused golf course, but this area has become a flourishing meadow with voles and insects, and milkweed plants.
‘The Federal government owns the lands where the Monarch fields lie and it should show the same environmental appreciation of the whole wetland system north of the airport. Clearly, for ecological reasons, the Medicom plant should be built elsewhere.’
- There has been a tendency among local planners to undervalue renaturalized areas. But that bias is gravely wrong. On top of the global climate crisis, Canada has already lost most of its urban wetlands and the last 20 years have led to a complete revaluation of renaturalized territories and their importance. The 144 hectares of wet meadows in the centre of Montreal’s new Great Western Park are a case in point. They were once used for haying; now they are hedge-rowed fields loved by birds and research in Germany has pointed to the extreme importance of such renaturalized fields as bird habitat. The City of Montreal showed a keen perception of the wet meadows when it decided to buy them outright for the Great Western Park.
The Federal government owns the lands where the Monarch fields lie and it should show the same environmental appreciation of the whole wetland system north of the airport. Clearly, for ecological reasons, the Medicom plant should be built elsewhere.
The birding group Technoparc Oiseaux has made the Montreal population aware of the ecosystem north of the airport. The birds have flocked to this area, making it the No. 1 birding site of the island. And the environmental value of the land has increased accordingly. The “Central Park effect” means that in urban areas with diminished natural spaces birds will find their way to key areas – and that is exactly what they have done with what are known as the Technoparc lands.
- Lot 5 599 104 lies within an integrated wetland riverine system
Fragmentation poses the greatest threat for such ecological systems. That is a prime reason not to build the proposed industrial plant on any part of the Monarch fields… for the Monarchs, for the fauna, for the butterflies, and for citizens.
‘The people of Canada have pledged $29 million of taxpayer money to Medicom and its affiliate Meltech Innovation. This public money should be used properly and not for the destruction of the environment.’
There is a solution
Fortunately, a solution exists. There are many available and suitable sites for the plant in the adjacent area. The people of Canada have pledged $29 million of taxpayer money to Medicom and its affiliate Meltech Innovation. This public money should be used properly and not for the destruction of the environment.
The money is there to do the right thing. Put the plant elsewhere.
Watch the Global News report of July 15, Green groups worry about impact on ecosystem if mask plant built near Trudeau airport.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of WestmountMag.ca or its publishers.
Feature image: Daniel Hamel
Patrick Barnard is a board member of the Green Coalition, a non-partisan environmental group in Montreal. He is also the editor of the video blog The Pimento report/Le Piment and a freelance journalist. He has worked in the past for CBC Radio, Radio Netherlands, and Dawson College where he taught English Literature. He is also one of 20 environmentalists and transit experts who signed an open letter in Montreal asking an end to the REM.