A group of citizens supported by the Center québécois du droit de l’environnement (CQDE) is asking the courts to stop the relocation of a rare plant threatened by a residential project of 15 “prestigious” houses in Sainte-Julie, on the edge of the mont Saint-Bruno, on the South Shore of Montreal.
A project that is strangely reminiscent of the saga of Boisé des Hirondelles, in Saint-Bruno, where Senator Paul Massicotte was planning to build some twenty houses, in an area where there are also ginseng plants with 5 leaflets, a species threatened flora. The Minister of the Environment, Benoit Charrette, finally refused the project last June.
In a request for a safeguard order and an interlocutory injunction filed Wednesday in the Superior Court of Quebec, Sonia Pépin and several other residents of Sainte-Julie allege that the Ministry of the Environment and the fight against climate change (MELCC) broke the Endangered or Vulnerable Species Act (LEMV) by authorizing the transplantation of ginseng with 5 leaflets.
A first authorization was issued in 2015 to relocate ginseng plants to Sainte-Julie. This was valid for one year. In documents filed in court, the plaintiffs report that several plants were said to have been transplanted at the time. New shoots have nevertheless sprouted from the ground since.
The Act provides for rare exceptions allowing the movement or transplantation of an endangered plant, in particular “for educational, scientific or management purposes”. According to Me Marc Bishai, who represents the CQDE and the citizens of Sainte-Julie, a ministerial authorization was issued “explicitly for the purposes of a housing project which will destroy the natural environment of the species”.
“The spirit of the law is not respected”
“By writing the word ‘management’ in this enumeration, preceded by the words ‘educational, scientific purposes’, it is impossible that the intention of the legislator was to allow activities specifically targeted by experts as being one of the main threats to the environment. recovery of the species, such as the construction of housing projects in mature woodlots ”, writes Me Bishai in the application filed in Superior Court.
The injunction request also indicates that transplantation is not always a success and that the precautionary principle should apply, especially since it is a question of an endangered species.
The applicants therefore ask the court to “declare invalid the authorizations [ministérielles] allowing transplantation ”.
Remember that Sainte-Julie has had an authorization from the MELCC since 2015 to carry out the infrastructure work required for the project. The land is also located in an area where zoning allows residential development.
Land worth up to over a million
A call for tenders is in progress to select the company that will carry out this work. The municipality’s technical specifications provide for “10 consecutive working days to complete the deforestation work, after the ginseng plants have been moved no later than the 1er June 2021 ”.
According to city spokesperson Julie Martin, however, the contract is conditional on the movement of the ginseng plants. This operation is the responsibility of the promoter, Développement Hauts-Bois inc., Created on 1er last October, according to the Quebec Business Register.
Press tried unsuccessfully to join the company, which bought last year from Domaine des Haut-Bois inc. the land located on the slopes of Mont Saint-Bruno. It is also impossible to know if the 15 lots have already found a buyer, but three of them are currently for sale on DuProprio at a price ranging from $ 688,000 to $ 1.3 million.
Geneviève Paul, director of the CQDE, finds it “frankly deplorable” to note that “citizens or environmental groups still have to go to court to force governments to respect their own laws on endangered species”.
For her part, Sonia Pépin, a resident of Sainte-Julie and one of the applicants in the case, does not mince words.
“For too long, the development of towns in Montérégie has been planned in an unsustainable manner, that is to say to the detriment of natural environments which are increasingly recognized as green infrastructures that provide important ecosystem services. ”