Montreal

'Game-changer' court ruling gives federal government right to protect Western chorus frog

A Federal Court judge has ruled the federal Environment Ministry has the right to intervene in private development projects in the interest of protecting biodiversity — in this case, the Western chorus frog.

Environment Ministry halted work on La Prairie housing development in 2016 to protect 'vulnerable' species

The Western chorus frog is considered threatened in Quebec. (Radio-Canada)

A Federal Court judge has ruled the federal Environment Ministry has the right to intervene in private development projects in the interest of protecting biodiversity — in this case, the Western chorus frog.

Two years after the federal government put an emergency protective order on the frog and halted work on a development site in La Prairie, Justice René LeBlanc has ruled that the government was within its right to do so.

Environmental groups had been fighting for a protection order since 2013 in an effort to stop the construction of a housing development that threatened the frog population in the area. 

The developer, the Groupe Maison Candiac, contested the original protection order in 2016, calling it "expropriation without compensation."

The Western chorus frog is a small olive or brown-coloured amphibian that grows to a length of about 2.5 centimetres. 

LeBlanc declared in his June 22 judgment that protecting an at-risk species on private property is constitutional and can't be considered "hidden expropriation."

The 100-page document creates a legal precedent when it comes to the protection of endangered species in Canada, says Alain Branchaud, executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society in Quebec.​

"We are really happy with this court decision," said Branchaud, calling it a "game-changer."

"The judge is saying that protecting the habitat of species at risk, of biodiversity, is a fundamental societal value. And that's major. That's a turning point," he told CBC's Homerun.

Between 1992 and 2013, 60 per cent of the frog's suitable habitat in the La Prairie region was lost — the highest rate of loss in Quebec's Montérégie region, according to the federal Environment Ministry.

With files from CBC's Homerun, Radio-Canada

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