Ecojustice Case – Nature Case Status: Victory

Challenging Cadillac Fairview to reduce bird-building collisions

Albert KoehlLawyer
Ecojustice lawyer John SwaigenJohn SwaigenLawyer
Ecojustice scientist Liat PodolskyLiat PodolskyScientist
The Canada Warbler is a migratory bird that's threatened by highly reflective windows of glass office buildings.
Canada Warbler. Photo by William H. Majoros via CC-BY-3.0

In February 2013 an Ontario judge set a significant legal precedent that will protect migratory birds from lethal collisions with the highly reflective windows. Judge Melvyn Green of the Ontario Court of Justice found that hundreds of birds, including threatened species, had been injured and killed at Cadillac Fairview’s Yonge Corporate Centre during spring and fall migrations in 2010.

Judge Green ruled that Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act and Canada’s Species at Risk Act prohibit reflected light from building windows, which fatally attracts birds. However, the court acquitted Cadillac Fairview and related companies of the charges because they had begun to address the problem. Cadillac Fairview looked at window films as a solution after Ecojustice laid similar charges against a different building owner, and subsequently installed window films on the most lethal side of their complex at a cost of over $100,000.

The City of Toronto lies along an important migratory bird route that brings birds from Central and South America to Canada’s Boreal Forest each spring — and back again in the fall. There are many hazards along the way, but one of the most significant is the reflective or mirrored windows of office buildings.

Window films that reduce the likelihood that migratory birds will mistake the reflection of sky and trees and collide with buildings are available. The City of Toronto has recommended the use of window film or markers since 2007.

Why was Ecojustice involved?

We believe that property owners must take reasonable precautions to protect wildlife. When solutions are readily available, building aesthetics and profit margins shouldn’t trump the protection of vulnerable species.

What does this victory mean?

As a result of this case, it is now illegal to kill or injure birds with light reflected from building windows under provincial and federal laws. According to section nine of the Environmental Protection Act, Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment must regulate any building discharging a contaminant that is killing birds. Under SARA, building owners or managers can be convicted under section 32 for the conduct of killing or injuring birds in window strikes.

Staff:

Albert Koehl, lawyer

John Swaigen, lawyer

Liat Podolsky, scientist

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