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Lawsuit filed in Canada over bird deaths from office tower windows

Fern Davies

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The complex is accused of being the most lethal for bird collisions in Toronto, killing or injuring more than 22,000 migratory birds from 2000 to 2010, according to FLAP, a non-profit group that has tracked bird collision deaths and injuries in the city since 1993.


That alleged lethal record has landed the giant property owner Cadillac Fairview Corp. in court, accused of breaking a federal law, the Species at Risk Act, and two provincial ones, the Environmental Protection Act and the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The company has pleaded not guilty to charges brought against it by the Canadian environmental group, Ecojustice.

In what observers believe could become a precedent-setting lawsuit, Ecojustice lawyer Albert Koehl alleges the birds are lured to their bone-crushing deaths by reflective panes of glass that cover the buildings from top to bottom. They mirror the sky and nearby trees, tricking birds into thinking they can fly right through, Koehl argues.


Convictions could bring maximum fines of $6 million for each day of the offence. Koehl has said his group would be satisfied with a court order for the property developers to make their widows less dangerous to birds.

Cadillac Fairview has already made clear it takes bird collisions at its office complex “very seriously.” The company has announced that it will install film patterns on the windows, making them less reflective.

Since 2010, new buildings in Toronto must have glass design features that “mute” reflections for at least 40 feet above ground, where most bird collisions occur. Design features to reduce collisions — from simple decals on windows to installing angled glass — were made available to property developers in a much-applauded report produced for the city by a group of experts.

The great majority of Toronto buildings, of course, went up before 2010. Ecojustice is counting on a legal victory to put all property owners on notice about birds that go “thud” in the day and night.

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