Montreal, January 18, 2024 – The Centre québécois du droit de l’environnement (CQDE) and three citizens today filed an injunction with the Superior Court to request the immediate suspension of work on the Northvolt battery plant project, which began earlier this week in the Montérégie region. The hearing is scheduled for this Friday morning at the Palais de Justice in Montreal.

At a time when the felling of trees has been observed and the destruction of wetlands sheltering the habitats of species in a precarious situation is imminent, the CQDE is calling for the suspension of this work, which is a threat to biodiversity.

A few months ago, the destruction of wetlands in the same location was prohibited in the context of an earlier project. The ministry’s experts cited the importance of these environments for the region and for biodiversity. The CQDE deplores this apparent double standard and wishes to highlight this seeming inconsistency.

“As the situation requires an urgent response to protect the environment, we’re now turning to the courts. We regret having to go this far, but the destruction in progress, without a suitable response to public concerns, compels us to act quickly,” says Marc Bishai, a lawyer with the CQDE.

The organization hopes that the Court’s decision will lead to a suspension of work as early as this week.

This case is a perfect illustration of the importance of the public environmental register, which has been required by law for the past six years, but is still not in place. If this register were already available, the CQDE and the public would have one-click access to documents describing the authorized project and the conditions imposed on it by the Minister of the Environment. Currently, we have to wait for a response to an access-to-information request, which can take weeks, when work is already underway in the field and there has been no independent environmental assessment to allow meaningful public participation.

“It’s unacceptable that the public register is still being held up while the destruction of sensitive environments is being carried out under a shroud of secrecy. Effective access to information is an essential pillar of environmental law, and the Northvolt case is a flagrant example of this need for transparency. Such access to information is all the more important given that the project has not been subject to the environmental impact assessment and review procedure, including public hearings before the BAPE, despite all requests to that effect,” adds Mr. Bishai.

The CQDE is grateful for the support of the Lapointe Légale law firm, which is representing the organization before the Superior Court in this case. The CQDE also underlines the commitment and mobilization of the three citizens co-plaintiffs in the initiative, Jacinthe Villeneuve and Sabrina Guilbert, co-spokespersons of the Comité Action Citoyenne: projet Northvolt; and Vanessa Bevilacqua, a member of Mères au front Rive-Sud.