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Media Backgrounder: Legal action launched over bird kills at GTA office complex

The Prosecution

  • Menkes Consilium Inc., Menkes Developments Ltd., Menkes Property Management Services Ltd. and three related companies have been jointly charged, after a lengthy investigation, under Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act (EPA) for discharging a contaminant during the years 2008 and 209 that causes or is likely to cause harm to animals.
  • The charges under Section 14, 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, mainly migratory birds.
  • The maximum fine under the EPA is $6 million per day for a first offense.
  • The companies are also charged under s. 11.2(1) of 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).

Toronto bird-building collisions

  • According to Toronto non-profit group FLAP (Fatal Light Awareness Program), each year in Toronto over one million birds are killed in collisions with building windows. www.flap.org
  • There are two principal problems with building windows: (1) birds are confused by images reflected in mirror windows; and (2) when buildings leave lights on at night birds are attracted to these areas and then die of exhaustion trying to escape or run into windows at daybreak because they see trees or sky beyond those windows or because of the reflection.
  • FLAP has been collecting dead birds and rehabilitating injured ones for a number of years. The group says:

By taking a few simple steps, like turning out lights at night and eliminating the reflective quality of windows during the day, we can prevent this unnecessary toll, and save energy and money, too. Office building managers, owners, tenants and employees share a responsibility to solve this problem. www.flap.org

  • FLAP documented a large bird kill at the Consilium Place office complex during Thanksgiving weekend in October 2005 when several hundred birds were killed or injured. The buildings were under different ownership at the time.
  • The three most lethal buildings for birds in Toronto in terms of window collisions, according to FLAP, show 100 and 200 Consilium Place in the number one and two spots, and a glass linkway in the TD Centre in downtown Toronto in the number 3 spot.
  • The City of Toronto created its Bird-Friendly Development Guidelines in January 2006. http://www.toronto.ca/lightsout/pdf/development_guidelines.pdf

Migratory birds

  • Migratory birds provide various ecological services that are vital for our agriculture and resource industries such consuming billions of tonnes of insects each day, pollinating plants, and dispersing seeds.
  • Birding is also Canada’s second biggest leisure activity after gardening. Wildlife viewing, including birding, also pumps billions of dollars into the North American economy each year. (See Bird-Friendly Development Guidelines, City of Toronto)
  • York University Professor Bridget Stutchbury's 2007 book, Silence of the Songbirds chronicles the worrisome decline of many migratory bird species. One of the chapters in her book looks at the problem of bird collisions with building windows.

The groups

  • Ecojustice, formerly Sierra Legal Defence Fund, is Canada’s leading non-profit organization of lawyers and scientists devoted to protecting the environment. www.ecojustice.ca
  • Ontario Nature is a charitable organization representing more than 30,000 members and supporters and 140 member groups across Ontario that protects wild species and wild spaces through conservation, education and public engagement. www.ontarionature.org

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