Ecojustice Blog – Nature Posted on December 6, 2012 (updated: February 17, 2015)

Migratory bird building collision case ends next week

Albert KoehlLawyer

Ecojustice returns to court on Monday to present closing arguments in our prosecution against what is alleged to be Toronto’s most lethal structure to migratory birds, the Consilium Place office complex.

When a person runs into a glass window or door, we might laugh at first. If it happens over and over again, we might erect a sign alerting them to the danger. It might read push or pull or otherwise signal that there was an obstacle ahead. And that simple act would be enough to save a person embarrassment and possible injury.

Each year, up to one million birds die in collisions with Toronto’s buildings. Birds are often confused by the reflections of blue skies and trees in windows. Buildings with highly reflective windows are the worst offenders. Our case, brought on behalf of Ontario Nature alleges that in 2008 and 2009, a complex of buildings at Scarborough’s Consilium Place owned or managed by Menkes Developments or related companies, caused the death of hundreds of Juncos, Ovenbirds, Warblers and many other migratory species.

In March 2007, the City of Toronto published its Bird Friendly Development Guidelines, setting out ways to make buildings safe for birds. The court heard from a City of Markham official about a window film that was applied to their own building to reduce bird deaths. (See an interview with Markham Ward 1 city councillor Valerie Burke about the steps the town took to reduce bird strikes at that site).

The trial began in April 2011 and lasted eight days. We have already argued that light from the highly reflective windows caused the death or injury of birds at Consilium Place. The charges fall under Section 14 of Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act. Menkes is also charged under the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act for causing bird to be in distress.

A conviction and fine in the case might not only make Consilium Place bird-friendly but also send a message to other building owners and managers. Toronto could be a safer place for birds. And it would allow people like Valerie Hunter, a Fatal Light Awareness Program volunteer and witness in this case, to spend less time rescuing live birds, and collecting the dead ones, from the base of high rises across this city.

On Monday, we’ll present our closing argument to Justice of the Peace William G. Turtle at the Ontario Provincial Offences Court (1530 Markham Rd, Scarborough, 9am – courtroom E-6). If you’re in Toronto, we invite you to support our case. If you’re not in Toronto, please share this post with others.

I want to thank everyone who supported our efforts with this case, including Caroline Schultz, executive director of Ontario Nature, and Michael Mesure, executive director of FLAP, and the many Ecojustice donors without whom we couldn’t do this work.

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