Questioning federal oversight of greenspace north of the Montréal‑Trudeau International Airport

Petition: 464

Issue(s): Biological diversity; Compliance and enforcement; Environmental assessment; Federal provincial relations; Indigenous matters

Petitioner(s): A Canadian organization

Petitioner location(s): Mont Royal, Quebec

Date received: 25 January 2022

Status: Completed - Response(s) to petition received

Summary: The petition raises biodiversity and Indigenous rights concerns about the industrial and commercial development of greenspace north of the Montréal‑Trudeau International Airport. The petition asserts that the approximately 150 hectares of greenspace are “ecologically rich.” Transport Canada manages this land and has leased it to Aéroports de Montréal for a period of 80 years (from 1992 to 2072). Aéroports de Montréal intends to develop 4 lots for commercial and industrial use, as outlined in its 2013–2033 master plan. The petition alleges that through Transport Canada’s leasing of this land to Aéroports de Montréal and granting it autonomy to develop the site, Transport Canada may be overlooking ministerial mandates, the Impact Assessment Act, and the Species at Risk Act. The petition is requesting that Transport Canada modify the lease with Aéroports de Montréal to protect biodiversity and ensure Indigenous stewardship rights.

On the basis of data extracted from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird database, the petition indicates that out of the 340 species of birds observed on the site, “14 are listed as either Threatened (11) or of Special Concern (3) under Schedule 1 of the Species at Risk Act.” The petition posits that Aéroports de Montréal and its prospective developer have dismissed this information, and the petition is requesting that a biodiversity survey be completed to confirm or repudiate the veracity of Aéroports de Montréal’s biodiversity claims. Furthermore, the petition suggests that there may be a possible infraction of the Migratory Birds Convention Act on lands leased by Aéroports de Montréal. The petition is seeking an investigation into Aéroports de Montréal’s role in this potential violation and asking that the investigation be transparently reported.

The petition asks responsible departments to confirm what steps they will take to ensure that Indigenous stewardship rights are preserved, stating that Aéroports de Montréal does not recognize the land rights of the Mohawks of Kahnawà:ke. According to the petition, Transport Canada and Aéroports de Montréal approved a proposal to develop a section of a lot despite there being no consultation sought from Indigenous stakeholders and no registered field surveys of this area’s biodiversity. Furthermore, when Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada pledged $29 million to support the approved project, an environmental consultation was conducted and published on the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada’s registry. The petition suggests that this report is insufficient, indicating that it includes outdated data, and dismisses the presence of certain species.

According to the petition, Transport Canada’s stated position on this matter is that “under the terms of this ground lease, Aéroports de Montréal is an independent entity that operates at arm’s length from Transport Canada.” The petition questions the “arm’s length” position and suggests that Transport Canada is disregarding its legislative and ministerial responsibilities. Furthermore, given that Aéroports de Montréal’s 2013–2033 master plan was approved by Transport Canada before the Impact Assessment Act came into effect, the petition is seeking a modification of the lease to ensure that the master plan adheres to the act and to the Government of Canada’s environmental protection and Indigenous reconciliation responsibilities.

Federal departments/organizations responsible for reply: Environment and Climate Change Canada; Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada; Transport Canada