The federal Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard and the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change have signed a ministerial order prohibiting the destruction of the critical habitat of the copper redhorse under the Species at Risk Act (SARA). The order was published today in the Canada Gazette. While it targets the Port of Montreal Contrecoeur terminal project that recently received a regulatory green light, the order leaves the door open to further authorization upon receiving sufficient new guarantees from the Port of Montreal.
« This is a great win for the copper redhorse, an unconditional victory that calls into question the possibility of continuing at the Contrecoeur site the Port of Montréal’s expansion project, » said Alain Branchaud, Québec Executive Director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS). « Red flags are everywhere for the world’s one and only copper redhorse population; we simply can’t afford to make any mistakes concerning this species.”
« We welcome the adoption of the ministerial order. However, having to go to court to force its adoption is an aberration. We’ll continue to be vigilant to ensure full compliance with the Species at Risk Act, » adds Geneviève Paul, Executive Director of the Centre Quebecois du droit de l’environnement (CQDE) which had initiated legal action in Federal Court last January 7.
With protection of the critical habitat finally being enforced, the two organizations said they will follow with interest the Canadian government’s analysis of any authorization requests that could lead to the destruction of any part of the copper redhorse’s critical habitat.
Particular attention will be paid to ensure conditions for issuing permits imposed by section 73 of the Species at Risk Act are respected. Such conditions are very strict and clearly indicate that any activity authorized cannot jeopardize the survival or recovery of any species at risk.
“The Montreal Port Authority is proposing the construction of a container port terminal approximately 40 kilometres downstream from Montréal on the St. Lawrence River, within the critical habitat of the Copper Redhorse that will be protected by this Order,” noted the Canada Gazette.
“The project underwent an environmental assessment (EA) under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, led by the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, which included public and Indigenous consultations. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) was aware of the sensitive Copper Redhorse areas and took this into account while participating in the environmental assessment of the project. The EA final decision statement by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change was issued on March 1, 2021, and concluded in favour of the project. Following the completion of the EA process, the project is now being reviewed in light of SARA and of the Fisheries Act.”
“To lawfully conduct works, undertakings or activities that could result in contravention of the prohibitions found under the Fisheries Act or SARA, project proponents (e.g. Port of Montreal) must apply for and obtain an authorization under the Fisheries Act and a permit under SARA,” the Canada Gazette said, adding: “The container port project is expected to have impacts on fish and fish habitat, including the Copper Redhorse and its critical habitat. In compliance with the Fisheries Act and SARA, the proponent must file offsetting plans as part of their application for an authorization under the Fisheries Act and a permit under SARA.”