Île-Bizard could become the first territory to obtain the status of “humanized landscape” in Quebec. The file submitted by the City of Montreal is pending approval by the provincial government, but it is raising concerns among property owners who are still wondering what benefits they will derive from this “protective measure.” More than 150 have signed a petition against it. Many feel it is — in effect — an expropriation.
The project, launched in the early 2010s, and abandoned in 2013, has been relaunched by the current mayor of the Île-Bizard – Sainte-Geneviève borough, Normand Marinacci. Framed by the Law on the Conservation of Natural Heritage, it aims to protect a territory and to conserve biodiversity on landscapes where natural components have been shaped over time by human activities.
The plan fits into the Plante administration’s modus operandi for picking up green spaces where it sees fit to advance the connectivity of the island-wide bike path and convert spaces currently being used by privately owned citizens to suit the Mayor’s “Urban Plan.” The perimeter includes the entire western part of the island over an area of 1,820 hectares. Amongst residents, major concerns are arising because the targeted territory includes agricultural land, and residential areas with over 350 private residences.
In an exclusive interview with The Suburban, Union of Agricultural Producers (UPA) director Claude Théoret said that “They are stealing our land. The LPTAQ law that protects agricultural territories issued in 1972 was put in place to protect local agriculture, but the City of Montreal is eating up greenspace for themselves to push their political image by giving away land to the public for leisure activities, but we do not consent.”
The Théoret family has been cultivating land in Ile-Bizard since the 1700s. The family owns 40 acres of farmland and cultivates approximately 500 acres of land rented from private owners in the area. Théoret’s son, Jean-Simon, now in his 30s, has been preparing for his entire life to take over the family business, which has been in existence for hundreds of years. The family supplies grocery stores with locally grown produce.
“These grounds are in active production. The city does not have the decency to consult with me. They chose to impede on my rights in order to make way for cyclists. It is an investment for political gain.”
According to Théoret, he was visited by Laurence Lavigne Lalonde, Member of the Executive Committee of the City of Montreal, and was told that the city intended to move the project forward in order to “protect the lands”.
“We don’t need this false protection gazebo standing over the umbrella of protection that already exists under the law.”
“It is a forward-thinking project that fits our island very well. It will contribute to the conservation of green spaces and agricultural activities,” Marinacci said when he came to power in 2013 and put the project back on track after the previous administration abandoned it. “It fits into our vision of preserving the rural character of L’Île-Bizard.
Isabelle Melançon, Official Opposition Critic for Environmental Affairs, told The Suburban that “It is important to listen to people on both sides, whether they are for or against the project. A consensus is required in order to define a protected area.”
“We need to find a balance. The environment minister needs to ensure that this process is conducted with the input of residents. We cannot set aside people who want to protect what is important to them,” Melançon explained.