Steven Guilbeault accuses Quebec of failing in its duty to protect endangered species

Minister Steven Guilbeault accuses the Legault government of being lax in protecting species at risk, while promising that a future Trudeau government would enforce federal laws that protect these species. Interviewed at To have to, it also underlines the Liberals’ desire to stop a project that is currently destroying one of the last habitats of the chorus frog in the province. This was authorized by Quebec, despite the unfavorable opinion of the experts.

“It is clear that, on the issue of endangered species, the Government of Quebec does not seem to want to play a very important role. No offense to the government of Quebec or to any other provincial government, we assume our responsibility and our legislation on the issue of endangered species, ”argued the Minister of Heritage, who also acts as spokesperson in several environmental records.

“It is the Minister of the Environment of Quebec who allowed the destruction of the habitat of the Chorus Frog in La Prairie. It was our government which intervened in 2016, by emergency decree, to stop this rampage. A re-elected Liberal government will ensure that the Species at Risk Act is fully implemented, ”added Mr. Guilbeault, citing the Liberals’ decision to stop a real estate project in La Prairie that would have destroyed “critical habitat” legally protected under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). The validity of the federal decree was confirmed last December by the Supreme Court.

In this context, the Liberals could very well intervene again in Quebec, but this time in Longueuil, where they believe that SARA would apply in another file concerning the chorus frog. “From a legal standpoint, we are on very solid ground. This is our assessment of the situation, ”Steven Guilbeault said Thursday. But since an “evaluation” of the file is underway at Environment Canada, he did not want to “comment” on the file further.

“Obviously, what we’re seeing is that while the provincial government isn’t playing a very proactive role, there don’t seem to be a lot of other players in the country who are ready to do it. We are currently seeing it in Quebec, ”he added.

Concretely, the Legault government authorized the City of Longueuil to extend Boulevard Béliveau in the heart of an essential habitat for the Chorus Frog, which is nevertheless protected under SARA. This project, which encroaches on the habitat of one of the last populations in the province, received the green light from the government despite an unfavorable scientific opinion from experts from the Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks (MFFP). The duty got the document through the Access to Information Act.

Notice dismissed

This opinion was not taken into account by the Caquista government. According to the details obtained from the MFFP, the project was first submitted to the Ministry of the Environment and the Fight against Climate Change (MELCC) in order to obtain an “authorization”. In this context, wildlife issues had to be taken into account in the context of a “wildlife opinion” submitted by the MFFP to the MELCC.

However, the City of Longueuil subsequently withdrew the authorization request, in order to submit a “declaration of conformity” under the provisions of the Regulation respecting the regulation of activities based on their impact on the environment (REAFIE). , which reports to the MELCC. In this context, no wildlife advice is requested or taken into account. “The responsibility then rests with the promoter of the project, the City of Longueuil in this case, to ensure to respect the regulatory requirements prescribed by the REAFIE”, explained, by email, the MFFP.

According to the MELCC, the statements from the City of Longueuil “do not mention the presence of threatened or vulnerable species, such as the Western Chorus Frog”. However, the City has promised to create a “wildlife passage” to allow tree frogs to cross the new stretch of boulevard, but it has not yet given details on what will be done.

Reacting to Steven Guilbeault’s criticisms, the office of the minister responsible for MELCC, Benoit Charette, indicated that the road project “has been approved according to the MELCC process and in accordance with our laws and regulations”. Saying “very surprised by Mr. Guilbeault’s comments”, the minister’s office added that “his own government has nevertheless qualified as particularly interesting the mitigation measure put in place by the City of Longueuil as part of this project” .

Rejection of projects?

“We’re going to have to be very proactive on the species at risk issue. We talk a lot about the climate crisis, and with good reason, but the crisis of biodiversity loss is also worrying, ”Mr. Guilbeault also argued in an interview.

The rejection of industrial projects that encroach on the habitat of endangered species will not however be systematic, he said, stressing the liberals’ desire to “find a happy medium to allow certain projects to go on. ‘before if it is considered that the impacts are minimized as much as possible, while rejecting projects where the impacts are too great ”.

According to him, the Port of Montreal expansion project in Contrecœur is an example of an acceptable project. “The Port of Montreal has made important commitments to protect the habitat of the Copper Redhorse. The assessment we made, in this case, is that the project can go ahead. “

The construction of this new port, which will transit up to one million containers per year, will destroy critical habitat for the Copper Redhorse legally protected under SARA. This “endangered” species is the only endemic vertebrate in Quebec. We also find, on the grounds of the port, a critical habitat for the Chorus Frog.

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