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3 Reasons Why Our Work Helps Birds Survive Their Annual Migrations

Posted by Albert Koehl at Nov 14, 2012 02:05 PM |

Thanks to legal action from Ecojustice and Ontario Nature, two of Toronto’s most lethal buildings for birds have been retrofitted to reduce migratory bird strikes.

By Albert Koehl, Staff Lawyer

A Justice of the Peace today dismissed all charges against Menkes Developments, et al., relating to charges under the Environmental Protection Act and Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act – and the deaths and injuries of 900 birds in 2008 and 2009 at the company’s office complex in Toronto.

How do we feel about the decision?

Disappointed? For sure.

Defeated? Nope.

Why? 3 Reasons.

Reason No. 1: Reduced bird deaths at Consilium Place 

Shortly after the trial began, the building owner began installing window films that have dramatically reduced the number of bird strikes in the past year. Michael Mesure, executive director of Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP), a group working to prevent bird strikes, told The Toronto Star that the number of incidents this year has fallen to 200. FLAP collected at least 7,000 dead or injured birds at Consilium Place over a decade. 

Now Consilium Place, an office complex that FLAP documented as the most lethal for birds in Toronto, is much less dangerous.

Reason No. 2: Upcoming decision in a related case

We will shortly have the judgment of Judge Melvyn Green in a related case against Cadillac Fairview. The earlier decision is in no way binding on Judge Green. (UPDATE: Judge Melvyn Green's decision is expected on Feb. 11, 2013)

Reason No. 3: Awareness leads to action

Public attention on these cases should motivate tenants to push building owners and managers to install effective, available window films to reduce bird deaths. Companies can no longer claim that there are no available products. The products exist and are in use. 

More on the decision

In today’s decision, Justice of the Peace William G. Turtle said that birds were indeed striking and dying at the windows of Consilium Place, then owned by Menkes. He also acknowledged that birds are vital to humans and that window strikes are the leading hazard during annual migrations.

The JP ruled that light is “radiation” under s. 14(1) of the Environmental Protection Act. He found, however, that it could not be the intention of the Ontario Legislature, who enacted the law, to include light, even reflected light, as a “contaminant” given that sunlight is essential to all life. 

He found that the windows were not “emitting” light. 

He also concluded that the window strikes did not constitute “cruelty to animals” under the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act because such cruelty had to be “deliberate.” We believe his reasons provide grounds for an appeal – a decision we must make within 30 days.

Final thoughts

So are these beautiful, industrious little creatures more likely to survive migrations today than they were prior to our legal cases? We think so, and we hope for more good news in the near future.

 

Menkes decision

Posted by Charlene Rogers at Nov 21, 2012 10:57 AM
I'm sorry the decision wasn't in your favour on this one, but clearly your work is making a difference. It is making developers and property owners more aware of the dangers that their buildings pose to birds - something that wasn't maybe considered when some of these most dangerous buildings were first constructed. I hope you are able to appeal this decision!

Is it possible to receive a copy of this decision? I've been checking the court's website (and Quicklaw), but haven't seen it reported yet. I've applied to law school, hoping to become an environmental lawyer, so reading these decisions is always very interesting for me. Thanks.

Menkes decision

Posted by Pierre Hamilton at Nov 21, 2012 11:06 AM
Thanks for the kind words, Charlene. An appeal is likely and we'll have to file by Dec. 13. We'll let you know what we decide.

The Justice of the Peace did not provide a written decision, but I can share our notes on the oral judgment. Please contact me at phamilton [at] ecojustice.ca.

Your commitment to environmental law is an important one. I wish you all the best.
 
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