Environmental activists seek injunction to protect Saint Laurent wetlands from development

Environmental activists on Monday began a court challenge seeking an injunction to protect wetlands in Saint Laurent from development.

The activists oppose the construction of Technoparc, a campus of technology firms and research facilities earmarked for a plot of land just north of Trudeau airport, because it will harm important wetlands, they argued.

"These marshes are sensitive," Campbell Stuart, a lawyer arguing on behalf of the activists, said. "There's perhaps still time to rehydrate them and fix them, but we need to force the city to do this."

Dozens of species of birds and other wildlife will suffer if the development goes ahead, the activists said. But work on Technoparc has already begun. The city of Montreal and the developer have built roads through it, cutting down "thousands of trees," Stuart said, with consequences to the bird population. "We're seeing the result now. The proof is in. There's a serious decline in birds," he said.

The activists call themselves the Green Coalition. Alison Hackney, a member of the group, protested on Monday alongside other activists outside the courthouse. Hackney bird watches in the wetlands, but, to her, the area represents a broader social issue. "I'm here because of an essential environmental question, is it acceptable to destroy the environment and not pay a price?" she said.

Provincial officials have already greenlit the Technoparc project, in part thanks to studies the city of Montreal produced. Those studies claimed the development wouldn't harm wildlife. But the Green Coalition said it plans to call expert witnesses who will challenge those findings in court.

The Technoparc development began under former Mayor Denis Coderre but is continuing under the administration of Valerie Plante. "Mayor Plante can't boast that she's the local ambassador for biodiversity and at the same time allow the destruction of the Technoparc wetlands," Hackney said.

The case will play out in court over the coming weeks. The city of Montreal told CTV News in a statement that it would let justice follow its course. "Our administration has proven by its actions that the preservation of biodiversity is important. Recall that in the last year we have invested and acquired more natural land than in the last 15 years. Also, remember that the city has just repatriated the assets of the Technoparc and that we will take the time to do an in-depth analysis of the entire file," the statement said.