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Province seeks feedback for bird-friendly building design

Mary Baxter
Province seeks feedback for bird-friendly building design

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change wants feedback on developing best practices for bird-friendly building design.

"We’re interested in working with stakeholders, that would include building operators but also municipalities and other non-government organizations, of what we can do to better protect birds from reflected light," says ministry spokesperson Kate Jordan.

The ministry, she says, will begin holding the stakeholder sessions this month.

In the meantime, it has posted a notice on the environmental registry about proposed adjustments to the environmental compliance approval process to clarify an exemption for reflective surfaces of buildings.

Currently no such approval is needed for this issue but the regulatory language needs to be formalized, Jordan explains.

"What we’re proposing is we would not require an environmental compliance approval for reflected light," she says.

The ministry has already held stakeholder sessions with other ministries such as Municipal Affairs and Housing and Natural Resources and Forestry.

The ministry wants to manage the issue outside of the regulatory approach, Jordan says. Other tools, such as best practices, building code standards or municipal bylaws may be suggestions raised during roundtable discussions and subsequently considered, she says.

The proposal was posted on the environmental registry for comment on Oct. 20. The comment period closes Dec. 4.

Toronto-based Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) says on its website that one to 10 birds die each year per building (Toronto has over 950,000 registered buildings) and estimates the number of bird deaths in Toronto could annually reach more than nine million. The non-profit organization works to protect birds in urban areas.

In a statement on the program’s website, the organization’s executive director, Michael Mesure, calls the ministry’s proposal "disheartening given our work during 22 years showing that corporate owners aren’t interested in voluntary action."

The program’s statement says a 2013 Ontario Court of Justice ruling is what motivated the ministry to clarify its regulations.

In that case, an employee of Ecojustice, an environmental advocacy group brought regulatory and public welfare charges against Cadillac Fairview Corporation Limited and related companies concerning birds harmed or killed when they collided with the Yonge Corporate Centre in north Toronto.

The judge found Cadillac not guilty of all charges but noted in his decision that the Environmental Protection Act is "sufficiently broad and supple to encompass the alleged transgressions."

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