Whether a major Toronto developer and property owner violated the federal Species at Risk Act will be the issue that is front and centre in a downtown Toronto courtroom beginning tomorrow morning.

The Cadillac Fairview Corporation and related companies are charged under the Act with killing up to 10 birds listed as “threatened” under the federal legislation. The companies are the owners or managers of a north Toronto office complex, where it is alleged that a number of such birds were killed in strikes with the highly reflective windows of the complex.

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.

The charges are being brought in a private prosecution by Ecojustice. The non-profit Fatal Light Awareness Program, which collects the birds, estimates that the complex is among the most lethal in Toronto. The charges also allege, under provincial environmental laws, that an additional 800 birds were killed at the complex in 2010.

Migratory birds play an important role in our lives. They help to keep insects under control so that agricultural and timber products are protected. Without birds, farmers and logging companies would have to spend more on pesticides that pose serious health risks to adults and children. Birds are also vital to dispersing seeds and pollinating plants.