Saving the St. Pierre River. A new approach: legal personhood

In our effort to save what remains of the St. Pierre River on Meadowbrook (refer to the article below), one of the last above-ground sections of this historic river, we knew we needed something new. In February 2020, the Minganie MRC and the Ekuanitshit Innu Council announced a declaration of legal personhood, with nine rights, for the Magpie River on the North Shore. We hope that we can use the same legal means to save the 200-metre section of the river that flows in our city.

We see an imminent danger for the St. Pierre River: the section that runs across the golf course is at risk of drying up completely, following the recent Appeal Court decision prohibiting the release of any water onto the property. This would mean the death of the river.

On April 8, Les Amis du Parc Meadowbrook’s steering committee unanimously adopted the declaration that you can read below. It states that the river shall possess nine rights: the right to exist, the right to flow, the right to freedom from pollution, respect for its natural cycles and development, the maintenance of its biodiversity, the right to perform its essential functions within its ecosystem, the maintenance of its integrity, the right to restoration and regeneration, and particularly to daylighting, and the right to defend its rights before the courts.

The St. Pierre river in better days

+ + +


We, the undersigned, declare that, like the Magpie River, which has been recognized by the regional county municipality of Minganie and the Ekuanitshit Innu Council as having legal personhood, the St. Pierre River that flows on the Meadowbrook golf course in Lachine (lot 1 292 249) and whose status has been established in the Superior Court by the Ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (Meadowbrook Groupe Pacific c. Ville de Montréal file no. 500-17-079150-135), must also be recognized as having legal personhood.

This watercourse is one of the last visible sections of the St. Pierre River, which once flowed from Mount Royal to the St. Lawrence River opposite Nuns’ Island. The river played a role in Montreal’s early years and had a significant impact on the City’s history, through transport, agriculture, populating of the territory and industry. Urbanization and industrialization have taken their toll on the river, and it was largely buried in the sewer system.

We therefore declare that the river shall possess the following rights:

    1. The right to exist
    2. The right to flow
    3. The right to freedom from pollution
    4. Respect for its natural cycles and development
    5. The maintenance of its biodiversity
    6. The right to perform its essential functions within its ecosystem
    7. The maintenance of its integrity
    8. The right to restoration and regeneration, and particularly to daylighting
    9. The right to defend its rights before the courts

We declare that Montreal’s other waterways should also be granted this legal status and these rights. We also fully support the efforts of the International Observatory on the Rights of Nature to have similar status for the St. Lawrence River and its tributaries recognized by the National Assembly.

We will act as guardians and representatives of the St. Pierre River to protect its rights.

Signed on this 8th day of April 2021,

Les Amis du Parc Meadowbrook

+ + +

The St. Pierre River is one of 36 streams that once flowed across the Island of Montreal but are now buried underground. The declaration states that the other remaining waterways on the Island of Montreal should also be granted legal status and rights. We have asked our partner organizations and our supporters to join us in signing the declaration. Many have already agreed.

We invite you to become guardians of the river and its rights. Please contact us to add your name to the declaration:

Leave a Reply