In 2012, legal action persuaded a property owner to retrofit its Toronto office complex to reduce the number of migratory birds colliding with its windows. The case began in 2010 when Ontario Nature, represented by Ecojustice staff lawyer Albert Koehl, filed a private prosecution against Menkes Developments and several related companies. Ontario Nature alleged that Menkes had caused the deaths of hundreds of migratory birds in 2008 and 2009. The birds died after striking windows at Consilium Place, a three-tower office plaza.

Birds are commonly confused by the reflections of blue skies and trees in windows, which leads to severe injury or death. The problem is most serious in buildings that have highly reflective windows. Toronto lies at the heart of one of the busiest migratory bird routes in North America.

Menkes et al were charged with violating Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act for discharging a contaminant that causes or is likely to cause harm to birds. They were also charged under the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

After the charges were brought, the property owner began installing films intended to prevent birds from colliding with highly reflective windows. But at the end of the trial, an Ontario Justice of the Peace dismissed charges that reflected light from Consilium Place caused the death or injury of hundreds of birds. Ontario Nature appealed the decision in 2012. Both defence lawyers and Crown agreed that the appeal should be granted because the Justice of the Peace failed to provide intelligible reasons for his decision. The case did not return to trial because a separate but related lawsuit dealt with the legal issues in question.

Why was Ecojustice involved?

Each year up to one million birds die in collisions with Toronto buildings. We took on this case because we believe that legal action will encourage building owners to take action to prevent harm to migratory birds as required by law.

What does this victory mean?

As a result of this case, and a significant precedent in our other migratory birds building collision lawsuit, it is now an offence to injure or kill birds with light reflected from building windows under Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act.

Staff:

Albert Koehl, lawyer