Environmental groups are calling on Environment Minister Benoit Charette to cancel a controversial residential subdivision project in Hudson, Montérégie. If it goes ahead, the Pine Beach project could “cause irreparable harm or serious harm” to the environment, they argue.
The Center québécois du droit de l’environnement (CQDE), Nature Hudson and the Environmental Legacy Fund claim to have transmitted new information to Minister Charette and invite him to exercise his powers allowing him to revise or cancel a ministerial authorization already granted.
A certificate of authorization was issued in March 2014 to Nicanco Holdings Inc. for backfilling wetlands in the Sandy Beach area, along the Ottawa River. The analysis report from the Ministry of the Environment, the Fight against Climate Change, Wildlife and Parks (MELCCFP) then specified the area of wetlands that was going to be backfilled and mentioned the presence of a single species at precarious status on the site.
However, in a letter sent to Minister Charette on February 20, the three organizations indicated that the area of wetlands in this area is greater than that established when the certificate of authorization was issued in 2014.
In his ten-page missive, lawyer Marc Bishai, of the CQDE, quotes in particular an inspection report produced by the MELCCFP in April 2021. This report indicates that according to the analyst now in the file, Youri Tendland, ” wetlands would now be more important than in 2014”.
Information that agrees with the conclusions of the firm of biologists TerraHumana Solutions, which carried out an ecological inventory of the sector in 2021 at the request of Nature Hudson.
According to Me Bishai, Benoit Charette must also take into account the conclusions of TerraHumana, which specifies that it has listed 29 species at risk on the site targeted by a subdivision project. The firm also concludes in its report that the Sandy Beach sector could qualify as an exceptional forest ecosystem (EFE), a status assigned by Quebec to rare forests or those that are home to threatened or vulnerable species.
As La Presse revealed recently, the firm AECOM Tecsult, retained by the proponent, had nevertheless affirmed that “no flora or fauna species designated as threatened or vulnerable [had] been listed on the project site”.
In light of this information, the CQDE invites Minister Charette to use the powers granted to him under the Act respecting certain measures to enforce environmental and dam safety laws. Articles 32 and 37 of this law specify the conditions allowing the minister to revoke a ministerial authorization, pleads the CQDE.
Section 32 of the Act states that the Minister may “amend, suspend, revoke or cancel” an authorization if the applicant has provided inaccurate information or failed to report a material fact.
As for section 37, it provides that the minister may stop any activity he has authorized if he has reason to believe that it “is likely to cause irreparable harm or serious harm to living species, to human health or the environment as a result of new or additional information becoming available after the issuance of this authorisation”.
Recall that Quebec is currently waging a legal battle to have several certificates of authorization issued before 2017 canceled, including the one granted to Nicanco Holdings in 2014. The company challenged Quebec’s decision in Superior Court, which ruled in its favor. The case was heard by the Court of Appeal last week. A decision should be made in the coming months.
Mr. Bishai clarified that Nature Hudson and the Environmental Legacy Fund’s approach “is independent and distinct [from the ongoing legal process] and will become all the more important if the Court of Appeal’s decision is unfavorable to the Government of Quebec “.
The letter sent to Minister Charette on February 20 asked him to indicate his intentions within 15 days. Marc Bishai reported to La Presse on Wednesday that he had received no response. “We will wait for the Court of Appeal’s decision,” he said. But if the decision was favorable to the promoter, the lawyer of the CQDE specifies that no step is excluded to force the minister to intervene in this file.
Minister Charette’s office declined to comment on the case.