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Legal action launched over bird kills at GTA office complex

TORONTO - Ecojustice lawyers and Ontario Nature have launched a prosecution alleging that a prominent Toronto property developer and manager caused the death of hundreds of migratory birds in 2008 and 2009 when the birds struck its office complex in Scarborough.

The charges 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 (formerly Scarborough) has caused the death or injury of birds, including species already in decline. The non-profit group FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program) has documented that at least 7,000 dead and injured birds were collected from the Menkes site over the last decade. Up to one billion birds are killed every year by flying into buildings throughout North America.

"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."

"Not only are these deaths preventable, we allege that they are violations of the law," said Ecojustice lawyer Albert Koehl "There are numerous ways to make these building safer for birds. We hope that a successful prosecution will send an appropriate message to other building owners, including downtown building owners, that action must be taken to avoid this unnecessary tragedy."

It is alleged that the birds killed at the Menkes towers suffered skull and spinal fractures, along with severe lung hemorrhaging. There are commercially available window treatments that are transparent from the inside but provide visual cues to birds on the outside to avoid violent collisions.

The City of Toronto estimates that about one million birds are killed in building collisions in the city each year, particularly during spring and fall migrations. Toronto is on a migratory bird route. The city has had guidelines in place for a number of years to encourage owners to take action like applying transparent window coverings and turning lights off at night. The groups allege that two of the Consilium Place towers rank as the most lethal building structures for birds in Toronto. The complex is composed of three adjoining office towers featuring glass faces that mirror the sky and surrounding trees and provide the illusion of safe passage to birds.

Menkes Consilium Inc., Menkes Developments Ltd., Menkes Property Management Services Inc. 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 offense. The companies are also charged under the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act for causing birds to be in distress. The accused companies have been ordered to a first appearance in the Ontario Court of Justice at 1530 Markham Rd, Toronto, at 9am on March 17, 2010 (Court E-6).

For more information visit ecojustice.ca or contact:

Albert Koehl, Ecojustice staff lawyer, (416) 368-7533 ext. 29; (647) 654-2156 (cell) Caroline Schultz, executive director, Ontario Nature, (416) 444-8419 ext. 237; (416) 768-9795 (cell)

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