Groups Of People Filed A Lawsuit Against Ontario's Bradford Bypass & Here's Why

The lawsuit was filed earlier this week.

An illustrative photo of a busy highway in Ontario.
Toronto Associate Editor

An illustrative photo of a busy highway in Ontario.

Some people are pushing back against Ontario's proposed Bradford Bypass, and have filed a lawsuit against the federal government.

On March 14, seven community and environmental organizations filed a lawsuit against Steven Guilbeault, the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, for not designating the Bradford Bypass highway project for an impact assessment.

According to Ontario Nature, these seven groups — Ecojustice, Earthroots, Environmental Defence, Forbid Roads Over Green Spaces, Ontario Nature, Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition, Wilderness Committee and Wildlands League — have reached out twice for a federal impact assessment but were turned down each time.

Since the Bradford Bypass would cut through Ontario's Greenbelt, Ontario Nature argues an assessment is needed to see how the new highway could affect the wildlife and other vital habitats in the area.

"The case for building a highway is thin at best and we must better understand the impacts of the project on natural heritage, migratory birds, fisheries, greenhouse gas emissions, air quality, and First Nations cultural heritage," the press release reads.

In the province's 2021 fiscal review, Ontario revealed it would be investing over a billion dollars to fund the Bradford Bypass (and more) in order to combat the gridlock and traffic delays drivers deal with in the area.

According to the provincial government, the Bradford Bypass would shave off 35 minutes of travel time when it's up and running.

"Federal impact assessment can play an important 'safety valve' role by ensuring the full extent of environmental impacts are assessed before the project moves forward," Ian Miron, a lawyer for Ecojustice said.

"Ensuring that the Minister fully and fairly considers requests for federal impact assessments on their merits is all the more important here, where the Ontario government has recently gutted its environmental assessment laws and policies and has now exempted the Bradford Bypass from any meaningful assessment or public consultation despite the potentially severe impacts of the project on Lake Simcoe, the Holland Marsh, and public health."

The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change told Narcity that they are aware of the "judicial review" and that the matter is before the court now.

"The former Minister of Environment and Climate Change received a request to designate the Bradford Bypass Project in February 2021. In May 2021, the Minister responded with reasons that the project does not warrant designation under the Impact Assessment Act," a communications advisor from the Impact Agency of Canada told Narcity via email.

"Even though the Bradford Bypass Project is not subject to the Impact Assessment Act, it must comply with other federal legislation, including the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Navigable Waters Act,and the Explosives Act. Federal departments, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada, and Environment and Climate Change Canada will also be participating in the provincial environmental assessment process and providing their expert advice."

Alex Arsenych
Toronto Associate Editor