Standing outside the environment minister’s downtown Montreal office, concerned citizens and environmentalists gathered to divulge the results of a new study concerning the Fairview Forest.
“In our study, we found over 240 species of both plants and animals, still counting,” said Isabelle-Anne Bisson, a biologist and the president of TerraHumana Solutions, the firm that conducted the study. “And in the 240 species, there were 35 species that were at risk, in Canada or in Quebec.”
In 2020, developer Cadillac Fairview announced plans to turn the Fairview Forest, a 43-acre green space located in Pointe-Claire, into the “downtown of the West Island.”
Soon after, a grassroots effort to preserve the forest began.
In 2022, both the City of Pointe-Claire and the Montreal Metropolitan Community adopted interim control bylaws to protect the forest from development.
But environmentalists say the ultimate goal is for the government to buy the land and turn it into a park.
“It’s a precious asset, it shouldn’t be bought and sold,” said Campbell Stuart, president of the Legacy Fund for the Environment, an environmental organization that aims to help citizen groups protect green spaces. “It’s something that people need, and we’re finding that out as it’s disappearing.”
On Tuesday, environmentalists argued that given the results of the biodiversity study, the Environment Ministry needs to revoke a certificate of authorization given to Cadillac Fairview last year that authorizes it to develop the land.
Pointe-Claire’s mayor agrees.
“Here we have an urban forest in the middle of a heat island, with developments going up all around it,” Tim Thomas said. “It’s a no-brainer to keep a green space there. Why would there even be a debate?”
Thomas says he’s been working hard on his end to preserve the forest but needs help from other levels of government.
In a statement to Global News, spokesperson for Quebec’s environment minister, Melina Jalbert, said the minister will analyze the report and look at any potential impacts for subsequent phases of the project.
“The protection of biodiversity, particularly threatened and vulnerable species, is a must and development projects in 2023 must take this into account,” said ministry spoke Jalbert.
Cadillac Fairview did not return our request for comment.