Group of scientists speaks out against plans to build on property near Montreal airport

Click to play video: 'Group of scientists speak out against plans to build on property near Montreal airport'
Group of scientists speak out against plans to build on property near Montreal airport
WATCH: A group of scientists is raising concerns that more should be done to preserve biodiversity on the island of Montreal. They point to one proposed project near the Montreal airport on a sensitive piece of land they say must be protected. As Global's Phil Carpenter reports, they are hoping to halt development – Jun 19, 2023

One of the first things you notice when you visit Technoparc green space in Montreal near Trudeau Airport is the cacophony of bird songs.

It’s an example of the diversity there that environmental groups are fighting to preserve.

“Any incursion into this space would be problematic,” said Katherine Collin of Technoparc Oiseaux, a group whose members have been fighting to protect the land for years.

Now a group of scientists and academics is opposing plans by information technology company Hypertec, which aims to build their new office in the Technoparc, a green space that includes wetlands and hundreds of species of animals, according to Technoparc Oiseaux.

Click to play video: 'Canada rejects calls to protect Technoparc near Trudeau airport'
Canada rejects calls to protect Technoparc near Trudeau airport

“We have mature ecosystems in the Technoparc,” said Dr. Emma Despland, a Concordia University professor in the department of biology.

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“It’s a space that has been documented, mostly by citizen scientists and community groups, to be used by huge numbers of birds – close to a quarter of all the bird species in all of Canada.”

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More than 200 scientists signed an open letter in le Devoir newspaper, asking that the City of Montreal and any company that wants to build, take biodiversity as a prime consideration.

“Particularly, if you look at the Greater Montreal area, there aren’t that many green spaces left,” explained Despland, who co-authored the letter. “This has been mapped.”

The group points out that at the Cop15 summit in Montreal last year jurisdictions including Montreal pledged to protect 30 per cent of territory by 2030, and that just over 23 per cent of the Montreal metropolitan area is now protected.

“We know what surfaces are available and there’s not that many,” Despland said. “So in that context, losing any is problematic.”

Click to play video: 'West Island mayors welcome new interim bylaw to further protect greenspace'
West Island mayors welcome new interim bylaw to further protect greenspace

Hypertec claims they couldn’t find another spot in the city and that they are sensitive to the ecological needs of the area.

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“We really want this to be the most sustainable building on the planet,” said the company’s chief innovation and sustainability officer, Eliot Ahdoot. “We want to have more trees on the site than before.”

He said another plan is to relocate animals and birds to a neighbouring area that they hope to sell to the city to serve as a conservation space.

Despland points out, however, that it takes a long time for ecosystems to develop so it’s best to not disturb existing ones.

The group also worries Hypertec’s project could lead to even more development.

A City of Montreal spokesperson said in a statement that the company does have the right to build the project.

“We are in discussions with them in order to preserve as much as possible the natural environments that are on their land,” reads the statement.

Both the city and the province still have to approve the project.

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