News / Toronto

Building’s owner not liable for bird deaths, court rules

The owner of a North Toronto office complex once deemed “lethal” for migrating birds will not be held liable, Ontario Court Justice Melvyn Green ruled Monday morning.

Green agreed that several hundreds of migrating birds have been killed or injured after crashing into the mirror-like windows at Cadillac Fairview’s Yonge Corporate Centre.

However, he ruled that the company did exercise “due diligence” in tackling the “untimely deaths” of birds crashing into their windows.

Despite the decision, Ecojustice lawyer Albert Koehl says the ruling in the landmark case heard last April sets the precedent they have been hoping for, opening the door for the prosecution of other companies who are not addressing the safety of migratory birds.

Under the provincial Environmental Protection Act, Cadillac Fairview was deemed responsible for “discharging a contaminant” in the form of light radiation from the reflective windows.

The birds are lured to their deaths by the illusion of a clear flight path created by the reflection of the sky and trees.

Cadillac Fairview was charged under the Environmental Protection Act and the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

It also faced a charge under the federal Species at Risk Act related to the death of several Canada warblers and one olive-sided flycatcher, both threatened species under the act.

Only the EPA and the SARA charges were deemed valid by Green.

The company was acquitted of all charges – avoiding potentially hefty fines – because it met the requirement for due diligence.

Since the case launched, Cadillac Fairview has taken measures to make the Yonge Corporate Centre safer for the birds attracted by the wooded ravine and golf course nearby.

An innovative window film applied to part of the office complex last year has saved hundreds of birds, according to the Fatal Light Awareness Program, a Toronto non-profit organization.

A similar retrofit has been applied at a building involved in a previous lawsuit by Ecojustice against Consilium Place in Scarborough.

That lawsuit ended in defeat for Ecojustice when the court ruled that while the building had caused fatal avian collisions, the owners of the building were not actively trying to harm the birds.

Ecojustice is appealing that decision.

The City of Toronto requires all buildings constructed after 2010 to include measures to reduce bird strikes.

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