Another protest in the bid to halt NDIP development
By Carmen Marie Fabio
PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO
Roughly 50 protestors gathered at the Vaudreuil-Dorion offices of Liberal MP Peter Schiefke on Sunday, February 28, to ask for his intervention as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to stop a 17-house development in Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot in a Western chorus frog habitat.
A determined group of Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot (NDIP) residents is continuing its protest over a 17-home housing complex that’s in the process of being built on what’s described as an environmentally important forest on 64th Avenue. On Sunday, February 28, a gathering organized by the leader of the Provincial Green Party Alex Tyrrell and NDIP resident Sandra Gajdos took place in front of the office of Vaudreuil-Soulanges Liberal MP Peter Schiefke who is also the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
‘Feds have the discretionary power’
“The reason we’re here today is the Federal Government and Federal Ministry of the Environment have the power to sign an ordinance to protect the critical habitat of the Western chorus frog,” said Tyrrell. “The Boisé des chênes blancs (where the development has already begun) contains the Western chorus frog. The Federal Environment Minister is completely capable of signing the executive order to protect the space under the endangered species act to save areas that provincial laws have not protected.” Tyrrell added in most real estate projects, there is no federal intervention but in this case, they do have the opportunity to intervene by signing the ministerial order. The request for federal intervention extends to other areas of NDIP that are also scheduled to be further developed for houses in 2021.
Residents additionally complained that an October 13, 2020 public assembly on the project was cancelled by the town due to COVID-19 but, unbeknownst to many, the written consultation process continued.
“The Town of NDIP announced this project in August and provided less than two weeks for people to submit written comments, in the middle of a pandemic, and then they started cutting down the trees in February,” said Tyrrell.
‘No adequate habitat study conducted’
Tyrrell said the optimum time of year to go and determine how many Western chorus frogs are present would have been in the springtime when their mating season would begin. “At no point while this development has been actively advancing have people had a chance to go and document the habitat. There should be an emergency ordinance for the next few months. It’s a last minute attempt to appeal to Peter Schiefke. There’s nobody better-placed to advocate for this issue than Peter. He campaigned on an environmentalist platform so I hope he’s going to take action. He should do everything in his power to save this habitat,” Tyrrell added, pointing to a precedent in a 2016 ruling by a federal court which ruled in favour of the Environment Ministry to intervene to halt a development project in La Praire, Quebec in the interest of protecting the Western chorus frog.
“We’re losing a very special ancestral forest in our town,” Gajdos told the roughly 50-member crowd and media representatives by loudspeaker as passing motorists honked in support. “There are only two forests like this in all of Quebec as the White oaks only grow on bedrock. The citizens are extremely anxious and agitated after receiving letters stating, ‘You’re at risk from carbon monoxide poisoning due to dynamiting of the bedrock.’” Residents near the development site have been provided CO detectors and were told if their properties incurred any damages in the process to contact their own insurance companies.
This latest protest is the third held by the residents who live in the immediate vicinity of the project who have formed the group SOS Boisé des chênes blancs along with support from members of fellow environmental organizations, including Pincourt Vert and Mouvement d'action régional en environnement (MARE).
NDIP residents have also reached out to the Société pour la nature et les parcs du Canada section Québec (SNAP). “We can offer help to local communities and citizens who are interested in protecting their natural habitat and provide expertise on legal issues pertaining to species at risk,” said SNAP Director General Alain Branchaud.
He described the NDIP case as ‘interesting.’ “I think it shows that the Quebec government still needs to improve the tools that can be used to protect at-risk habitats on private land.” In referring to the La Prairie ruling, Branchaud said the courts recognized that, “Protecting biodiversity now has societal value and society is now moving toward a different paradigm. If the Quebec government doesn’t want the federal government to step in and protect all these habitats, it needs to act rapidly and adopt new measures proactively.”
NDIP Mayor earlier claimed ‘slow-paced development’
In an earlier request for comment, NDIP Mayor Danie Deschênes said that she had, “No comment about anything.” Deschênes won a by-election in 2014 to replace then-Mayor Marie-Claude Nichols who stepped out of the role to replace departing Liberal Vaudreuil MNA Yvon Marcoux. Deschênes is also the Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of Développement (DEV) Vaudreuil-Soulanges.
Upon her bid for re-election in September, 2017 – which she won by acclamation – Deschênes told The Journal there would be no major residential development in the next four years. “We’re slow-paced when it comes to developments,” she said. “We’ll keep building nice houses one at a time.”
Reaction by Schiefke
Peter Schiefke was not present at the protest but, reached by email, provided the following statement to The Journal.
“We are fully committed to the protection and recovery of Canada’s species at risk based on sound science, traditional knowledge, collaboration, including through robust recovery measures.
The management of terrestrial wildlife is primarily the responsibility of provinces and territories. At the federal level, the government has tools at its disposal, through the Species at Risk Act – that are both regulatory and stewardship-based – to support the protection and recovery of species at risk.
On non-federal lands, we may also take additional measures if we consider that a species and its residence are not effectively protected by the law of a province, or that or its habitat is not effectively protected by the law of a province.
I am actively looking into this issue and I want to thank the citizens of Notre-Dame-de-l’Ile-Perrot for raising their concerns with me over the past few days.”
To reach SNAP, call (514) 278-7627 or consult snapquebec.org.