Montreal’s Monarch fields
must be preserved

Monarchs come to feed and breed among abundant milkweed in threatened Technoparc meadow

By Patrick Barnard and Richard Swift

June 14, 2021

Monarch butterflies are endangered. Money cannot be made to flutter on wings nor fulfil the role of the Monarch

– Chief Ross Montour, Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke

The Montreal birding group Technoparc Oiseaux and its founder Joël Coutu have brought a precious jewel to light north of Montréal-Trudeau International airport: a marvellous web of marsh, forest, streams and fields hidden away in the borough of Saint-Laurent and the City of Dorval. This integrated ecosystem is known as “the Technoparc Wetlands” and birding enthusiasts, along with the non-partisan environmental group Green Coalition, are fighting to save the area that has become the number #1 birding site on Montreal Island.

Much of the 200-hectare zone is owned by the federal government of Canada, and an important section consists of the “Monarch fields” where Monarch butterflies come to feed and breed among abundant milkweed. At the end of 2020, the Green Coalition received federal assurances that “no development” would take place on these federally-owned lands. However, the office of Francis Scarpaleggia, M.P. for Lac-Saint-Louis, has just now informed the Green Coalition that a private company will be installing a 15,500 square-meter industrial plant, to produce surgical masks, on top of the Monarch fields, effectively destroying them.

Prairie du Technoparc - Image : Jim Harris

Technoparc meadow – Image: Jim Harris

Chief Ross Montour from the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke told a Sierra Club forum on May 18 that he is very disturbed because “we were not approached to consult,” about the wetlands. He added: “This puts city, provincial and federal governments in a bad light. It’s horrible what’s been done in the name of progress, of development.”

We must not forget that in 2019 Montreal was the first major Canadian city to be awarded Gold Status, as “a friend of the Monarch,” as a city committed “to restoring and protecting the Monarch habitats all along their migration corridor and encouraging its citizens to participate in this preservation work.”

Why care about the Monarch butterfly? Because it is a litmus test of how we humans treat or mistreat the natural world. Because this extraordinary butterfly species is endangered – in Mexico and here, weakened by us, by our government and our actions. Both in the Mexican Monarch refuge and Montreal’s Technoparc, it is the destruction of species habitat that is the main villain in this story of loss and spoliation.

The brilliantly coloured Monarch has declined by about 90 percent since the 1990s and its eastern migratory route takes it from the high mountains of central Mexico all the way up to Canada, and to this city.

‘… in 2019 Montreal was the first major Canadian city to be awarded Gold Status, as “a friend of the Monarch,” as a city committed “to restoring and protecting the Monarch habitats all along their migration corridor and encouraging its citizens to participate in this preservation work.’

One of us, Richard Swift, went to the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Michoacán state and worked his way up a mountainous path to find a majestic site: alpine Oyamel fir trees so covered in Monarchs that no vegetation could be seen beneath. Even though the individuals in each “migratory generation,” travelling hundreds or thousands of miles, have never before in their lives made their long journey, they nonetheless follow an internal “compass” that points them in the right direction.

Monarch butterfly on Thistle – Image: Ilana Block

The migratory pattern of the Monarchs gives them a far-flung habitat system under pressure at almost every point. Down in Michoacán illegal logging and avocado plantations are encroaching on the Reserve despite it being a UNESCO Heritage site. In 2020 a Reserve manager and vocal Monarch advocate, Homero Gómez González, was found strangled and his body stuffed down a well.

In the U.S. and Canada, farmers have little use for the “unproductive” milkweed essential for Monarch reproduction, and habitat is threatened by agro-chemicals, plus climate change. As the living area for these endangered butterflies becomes ever more crucial, the sensitivity of all levels of government to protect it has never been more important.

Katherine Collin, speaking for the 3,800 members of Technoparc Oiseaux, says that “it is deeply disturbing that the federal government, in conjunction with the City of Dorval, has given its blessing to the fragmentation and destruction of Monarch Fields.” And she forcefully comments that “the idea that the federal government would tacitly contribute to habitat loss of the Monarch butterfly, the emblem of endangered species in North America, is simply unacceptable.”

‘… it is deeply disturbing that the federal government, in conjunction with the City of Dorval, has given its blessing to the fragmentation and destruction of Monarch Fields.’

Katherine Collin, Technoparc Oiseaux

Monarchs live in a wide range of habitats, each of them requiring the best protection. As Chief Ross Montour puts it, “authorities must go above and beyond – the environment demands it.”

Chief Montour is talking about territory that is completely owned by the federal government. Canada bears full responsibility here. What is demanded is straightforward: the Monarch Fields in Montreal’s Technoparc wetlands must be preserved.

Feature image: Kathy Servian on Unsplash

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

Patrick Barnard - WestmountMag.caPatrick Barnard is a Board member of the Green Coalition.



Richard SwiftRichard Swift is an author and writer for the New Internationalist magazine of Oxford, in the United Kingdom.



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There are 8 comments

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  1. Doris Potter

    As a wildlife photographer and an animal rights advocate, I am profoundly disturbed by habitat destruction. We ALL should be. That the Canadian government and the city of Dorval do not have the will to protect a vital area important to the survival of an iconic species like the Monarch butterfly is unforgiveable!

  2. Georges Dupras

    Developers, and our elected officials use hamburger tactics when it comes to attaining their goals. It began with the destruction of the wetlands within the Technoparc and it has now spread to include an adjoining habitat for the endangered Monarch butterflies.

    When it comes to Government talk, regarding the importance of our natural environment, I guess there is true meaning in that TALK IS CHEAP. I urge everyone who is as outraged as I am to contact their elected officials and convey their disappointment.

  3. Diane Marcotte

    Monarch butterflies populations are just 1/10th what they were 30 years ago and yet our federal government approves the destruction of the “Technoparc Wetlands” where Monarchs come each year. Just last year assurances were given to the Green Coalition that “no development” would take place on these federally-owned lands and now there is an about-face? This is SO WRONG.

  4. Peter Graham

    Whether the demand for surgical masks will remain at present levels is difficult to predict. However, if the current trend line for the collapse of biodiversity continues, we do know with 100% certainty that current levels of human population will be impossible to maintain. When both business and government act systematically to undermine the long term wellbeing of society, we have a serious problem. This goes far beyond the potential loss of a keystone species and the ecological impoverishment of a continent – it calls into question the future of civilisation.

  5. Jean

    It is not necessary to add to the excellent comments so I wrote this little poem:

    O, lovely monarch
    So far from home
    May soft winds lift your wings high
    As you float across an Azur sky

  6. Anne Streeter

    This isn’t the first time that the federal Liberal government has broken a promise. It is simply one of many. This is such a sad testament to all that governments do for the wrong reason when the option for doing the right thing is so abundantly clear! Face masks can be manufactured anywhere. Precious wetlands, endangered Monarch butterflies and massive public opinion are issues of immense importance. Francis Scarpaleggia, work for your constituents and see that this decision is reversed!

  7. Paul

    As I was going to sleep last night, I imagined a round table of pure-hearted and non-adversarial people hammering out a plan ….I imagined a beautiful factory merged into the landscape covered with fluttering numbers of monarchs about an expansive milkweed field, a factory built to reflect the United Nation’s sustainability goals. The project, twined with a Mexican sister project, was here harvesting the fine silk from the milkweed seeds to produce the most beautiful facemasks. The associated laboratories in Mexico and here focused on ways to protect our Goldilocks planetary systems. No provision was made for parking fossil-fuel vehicles, given that parking is all internal, green and clean. No factory could readily be seen, as tourists strolled, jogged and biked about in the abounding beauty.

  8. Pete Kirby

    As a former aerial photographer, flying from Dorval and Cedars during the eighties and early nineties, I became closely familiar with some of the impressive natural beauty (as well as the growing urban ugliness) of the Montreal landscape beneath me.

    The proposed tragic loss of The Technoparc Wetlands (200 hectares of green marshland – a unique natural oasis and home of the Monarch butterfly) directly adjacent to Dorval Airport ….and the nightmare of traffic congestion now planned by The Town of Mount Royal and the Royalmount developers, are clear examples of modern greed-driven ignorance….and the harshness of the urban/industrial environment.

    Due in part by the pandemic, as well as their new-found ability to work from home, there has been a massive exodus by Montreal residents to the lower Laurentians – and further north. …an obvious escape from the toxic surroundings created by unimaginative development, the heavy truck and the automobile!

    Fortunately, a stroll through the internet reveals important change is on the horizon – change in our transportation systems, our environmental and ecological awareness…a more attractive future for our citizens….and a wake-up call for our politicians. It is time for them to listen!

    Pete Kirby,
    Mont Tremblant, QC

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