Grassroots environmental group steps up NDIP development protest
By Carmen Marie Fabio
PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO
NDIP resident and co-administrator of grassroots group ‘Notre Île Nautre’ Amanda Shaw-Yagoub (centre) has been handing out door-hangers in the town along with her daughter Zahra Yagoub (left) and family friend Nour-Eddine Rouissi in an effort to inform residents of upcoming planned housing developments.
Concerned with the planned housing developments for the Town of Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot (NDIP), a group of concerned citizens has incorporated a federally registered non-profit organization named Notre Île Nature.
The group, which now has over 230 members and, since April 7, has delivered over 2,000 door-hangers to NDIP homes to inform fellow residents of the new housing developments planned for the town and is encouraging people to submit their letters of concern which will then be forwarded to Mayor Danie Deschênes and councillors.
“This came up after the 64th Avenue forest protests,” said NDIP resident Amanda Shaw-Yagoub who, along with co-administrators Tim Work, a UQAM professor in the department of Science and Biology; environmentalist and photographer Josué Bertolino; Biologist Annie-Claude Bélisle, and Sylvie Tousignant have spearheaded the movement to encourage residents to speak up.
“We realized we needed to be better organized, not just for this forest but for all the other planned developments,” said Shaw-Yagoub. “We were blindsided by the 64th Avenue development and after all the protests, we decided to get ourselves organized.”
PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO
As reported in The Journal since February, residents have held repeated protests about the 17-house project being built in Boisés de Chênes Blancs (White Oak Forest) on what has been classified as an exceptional forest ecosystem.
Shaw-Yagoub said she reached out to Mayor Deschênes in writing to see if she and council would be willing to discuss long-term strategies to preserve some of these wooded areas and reported she was shocked by the mayor’s response but declined to share the email with The Journal.
“I realized then there’s a lack of democracy here and we would need to lead a citizen effort.”
Bolstered by volunteers, a team has been going door-to-door to the roughly 5,000 houses in NDIP to deliver the door-hangers which state, in part, “Natural environments in NDIP are disappearing at an alarming rate but the mayor claims that ‘only a handful of citizens’ care. We say, on the contrary, the vast majority of NDIP-ers care about their environments and demand that elected officials develop a long-term plan to protect them.”
Feedback from the mayor
Reached by phone, Mayor Deschênes disputed some of the group’s claims.
“We’re in April; the only projects going on are 64th Avenue and 1210 Boulevard Perrot, starting today (April 14).” The latter project will contain 19 homes.
When asked if the other projects would continue, the mayor responded, “We treat every project in the same way. When everything is in order and the rules and regulations are met, we will go ahead. But it doesn’t have to be this year.” Deschênes added the other construction projects are contingent upon getting the okay from the Provincial Environment Ministry and that the city would respect the ownership of the land.
The mayor also disagreed with Shaw-Yagoub’s assessment of their initial dialog. “We received an email asking for our collaboration which we answered positively right away. The next contact we had with this organization is pamphlets.”
Deschênes emphasized that council does collaborate when asked. “My answer was very clearly, ‘Yes, let’s collaborate instead of working the way we are now’ because everything is supposed to be based on respect.” The mayor also reiterated that she is willing to sit down with residents to discuss the issue but not with non-residents who are opposed to the projects.
Concerns will be forwarded to council
Notre Île Nature is asking residents to submit their concerns, in French or English, to email@example.com following which they will be forwarded to the mayor and council. Notre Île Nature is also providing guidelines for people who want to presents themselves as candidates for mayor or council in the upcoming municipal elections in November.
As of press time, roughly half the territory has been covered and the group has received over 150 emails in support as opposed to one email who reportedly accused the group of being ‘selfish’ by protecting their own interests. But Shaw-Yagoub said many of the letters are from residents who are expressing strong concerns about the changes they’ve seen in NDIP in the years, and sometimes decades, in which they’ve lived in the town.
PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO
Tree-cutting began April 14 at then next NDIP development, a 19-house project at 1210 Boulevard Perrot.
“Our first real big push was to get the door-hangers on every home in NDIP because the mayor refused our petition. She said, ‘There are thousands of people on there who aren’t from NDIP so it doesn’t matter.’”
“We want to be able to have a civil conversation but she’s refusing to talk to us.” Shaw-Yagoub said the group’s hand was forced to determine how many residents were against these new developments. “Then maybe, as a politician, she’ll be concerned about re-election in November. This isn’t going away. The mayor’s going to have to answer to her citizens at some point.”