TORONTO – Ecojustice lawyers and Ontario Nature are in court today to continue their private prosecution against a prominent Toronto property developer and manager over the 2008 and 2009 deaths of hundreds of migratory birds that struck its office complex in Scarborough.
The charges, launched last March under Section 14 of Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act (EPA), allege that light from the highly reflective window surfaces of Menkes Consilium Place office complex in Toronto have caused the death or injury of birds, including species already in decline. The non-profit group FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program) has documented at least 7,000 dead and injured birds at the Menkes site over the last decade.
“Most people are not aware of the shockingly high death toll that particular types of buildings inflict on songbirds and other migratory species,” said Ontario Nature’s executive director, Caroline Schultz. “Urban areas are like an obstacle course for birds, many of which are already experiencing severe population declines.”
Up to one billion birds are killed every year by flying into buildings throughout North America. U.S. research indicates that window collisions are the leading cause of bird mortality after habitat destruction.
“A successful prosecution would encourage other building owners to take action to avoid this unnecessary tragedy,” said Ecojustice lawyer Albert Koehl. “If we don’t act soon then waking up, or strolling in our parks and ravines, to the pleasant sounds of many songbirds may soon become a thing of the past.”
The City of Toronto’s Bird-Friendly Development Guidelines set out various commercially available window treatments that are transparent from the inside but provide visual cues to birds on the outside to avoid violent collisions. FLAP statistics rank Consilium Place as the most lethal building structures for birds in Toronto. The complex is composed of three adjoining office towers with glass faces that mirror the sky and surrounding trees, giving the hazardous illusion of safe passage to birds.
It is alleged that the birds killed at the Menkes towers suffered skull and spinal fractures, along with severe lung hemorrhaging. Toronto is on a migratory bird route and the City estimates that about one million birds are killed in building collisions in the city each year, particularly during spring and fall migrations.
Menkes Consilium Inc., Menkes Developments Ltd., Menkes Property Management Services Ltd. and three related companies have been jointly charged under the EPA for discharging a contaminant that causes or is likely to cause harm to animals. The maximum fine under the EPA is $6 million per day for a first offence. The companies are also charged under the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act for causing birds to be in distress with a maximum fine of $60,000.