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Turf Wars Illustration by Alëna Skarina

Turf Wars

The battle to preserve a patch of forest in Pointe-Claire becomes a flashpoint for community camaraderie.

It’s a cold, rainy December afternoon when I meet with a group of five people at the corner of Brunswick and Fairview. I was warned about the weather in advance: “Should be dreadful ... Rain and high winds. This would be a great example of why the forest is important though!” Geneviève Lussier, Save Fairview Forest’s spokesperson, wrote to me in an email. She also gave me a chance to back out: “Let me know what you decide. We’ll be there no matter the weather.”

Lussier greets me when I arrive, along with her SFF colleagues Sue Stacho, Ralph Stocek and Norm Lapointe. The citizens' group has been opposing the development of the unofficially named “Fairview forest,” a fifty-acre plot of land in Pointe-Claire, a municipality in Montreal’s West Island suburbs. The forest is in danger of becoming a massive mixed-use commercial and residential area. For over one hundred weeks and counting, the group has been protesting every Saturday, holding up signs with slogans reading “Time spent with trees is never wasted” and “#ForestsHealUs.” It doesn’t matter if there’s a snowstorm, rain or a heatwave—there’s always someone at the intersection, putting up a fight. 

The real estate developer Cadillac Fairview, which also owns the Fairview Pointe Claire shopping centre across the road, purchased the land in 2013. The Toronto-based company manages over $40 billion of assets internationally, including nineteen malls across Canada. It operates a number of iconic commercial properties, including the Toronto Eaton Centre, Carrefour Laval and the Toronto-Dominion Centre.

In October 2020, Cadillac Fairview unveiled its plan to create a whole new “downtown” in the West Island. This billion-dollar-plus project would turn the lot and the adjacent parking space into a mixed residential and commercial area that would include a boutique hotel, condos, parks and office spaces, preserving five to eight acres of the forest. The development could increase Pointe-Claire’s population by up to 10,000, according to Cadillac Fairview. 

When they heard the news about the project, Lussier and a few other West Island residents knew they wanted to do something to stop it. Lussier was shocked that a forest was being clear-cut at a time when so many are, at least on some level, aware of the climate crisis. “I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. How is this possibly happening in 2020?’” she tells me.

Stocek interjects: “And you thought you could take on one of the most powerful corporations in Canada!”

What does it mean to lose a forest? 

I see Fairview forest nearly every day on my commute to the city from Pierrefonds. I’ve probably passed it hundreds of times by now: on my sleepy bus rides to high school, late at night after a long day at university or on my way to buy a new pair of winter boots at the mall. For over a decade, I’ve watched as a wall of trees falls behind me through the bus window, never thinking much of the wetlands and woodlands that lay beyond the edge of the sidewalk. But for longer than it’s been a hazy fixture of my life, the forest has been quietly playing its role in protecting our ecosystem.

Fairview forest is encased by a highway, a residential area, a mall, a reservoir and the construction site of the future Fairview-Pointe-Claire Réseau express métropolitain (REM) light metro station. Much of the wording used to describe the land is highly bureaucratic. In city documents, it’s referred to as “MU2,” referring to its designation as a mixed-use zone. A 2005 environmental study conducted by the municipality of Pointe-Claire designates Fairview forest as lot vacant propriété du collège John-Abbott (à l’extrémité nord-ouest de l’arrondissement): a vacant lot property of John Abbott College (at the north-west extremity of the borough). It’s described not as a forest, or as a wooded area, or by any other term that might hint at what is actually found within it, but as a vacant lot, private property.

Yet for years residents have claimed the forest, literally shaping its landscape. The same study discusses a network of informal trails created through repeated use over the years, and even a makeshift playground for children. The lot is far from “vacant.” It’s filled with rare species of trees, like the white oak and shagbark hickory. The forest technician conducting the study recommended the complete conservation of three stands—one silver maple forest, one hickory-sugar maple forest and a hundred-year-old beech forest—that made up 37 percent of the surface area of the lot. They also note the importance of the lot showing signs of use by people living nearby. 

I can’t legally enter the forest, so I rely on old city documents, Facebook posts and walks on Google Street View to paint a picture of it. This is what I work with: a digital composition of a natural landscape. I know from what the Save Fairview Forest group has logged on iNaturalist, a mapping platform that allows users to track wildlife, that they’ve spotted song sparrows, woodpeckers and salamanders. I match the thumbnail photos to other images online and create my own virtual trails through the forest, trying to see what others have seen. 

I’m not sure I can, but I also don’t think it matters. I know enough people have walked across the forest floor that the earth has molded to their footsteps. There are birds chirping in its trees, snakes moving through the grass, bees buzzing as they move from flower to flower. Someone wanted a place for a child to play, and they chose this one. 

“I think often when we’re considering protected spaces, we have this idea that these spaces need to be extraordinary in some way, that they need to be full of rare species,” explains Carly Ziter, an assistant professor at Concordia University’s department of biology. But in an urban context, she adds, ordinary natural spaces can still have extraordinary benefits. 

Forested areas are home to a large amount of biodiversity. Compared to more manicured urban parks, Ziter explains, forests typically have a higher number of trees and more structural complexity—they have bushes and other plants that make them beneficial to wildlife such as birds, pollinators and amphibians. A city report published in 2014 shows that Montreal lost one thousand hectares of ecologically valuable heritage between 1992 and 2002. In cities, these ecosystems are rare; most urban green spaces don’t come in the form of relatively untouched forest.

Forested areas in cities save lives: a recent European study published in The Lancet showed that increasing tree cover in cities can reduce the number of deaths from summer heat. Removing tree cover in an area that already experiences high levels of heat not only contributes to rising temperatures, but also takes away a space where people can go to cool off. 

According to the 2005 environmental study, the forest contains both old-growth and mature trees. “Older and larger trees are some of the most powerful in terms of reducing heat. They’re not easily replaced,” Ziter notes. 

When a species’ habitat is destroyed, it has two choices: it can either move somewhere else, or it dies. The latter means that the benefits it creates die with it. Those include flood and temperature regulation—which is especially important in the context of Fairview forest, whose surrounding area is an urban heat island. 

A lot of species don’t have the option to go elsewhere if the surrounding landscape is also developed. The brown snake, which in Quebec is found only in Montreal, is an endangered species in the province. They live in grassy areas that are quickly disappearing as the city’s pace of urban development increases. Perhaps, like the lot itself, the snake isn’t particularly well-known or coveted, but it’s a vital part of the urban ecosystem, feeding on unwanted garden pests, and in turn becoming prey to crows and raccoons.

The proposed development would also entail the loss of something else—something more personal. For Norm Lapointe, a retired contractor and another early SFF member, it means losing a place he’s been visiting for decades. “I was mountain biking there fifty years ago, ” he tells me. His bike helped forge the trails that run through the forest today. Now, though, entrances to the forest are blocked by no entry signs.

Biodiversity matters in relation to protecting species, but it also matters in cities because of the benefits it offers to residents. Access to nature helps our mental well-being. There is an entire body of research linking spending time in nature to improved attention, lower stress and improvements in mood. A 2011 study found that volunteering in nature can provide people with a renewed sense of purpose and meaning in life. Natural environments like Fairview forest also become spaces where people can gather with others. 

Ziter also notes the importance of “mainstreaming biodiversity” when it comes to fighting the climate crisis. Biodiversity isn’t just an element worked into good policy, it’s something that people should have access to in everyday life. Given that nearly three out of four Canadians are urban residents, protecting urban green spaces is critical to that effort. 

Lapointe shows me photos he took of a fox he spotted on one of his walks through the forest. On their Facebook page, members of SFF share images of bird sightings, blooming flowers, endangered monarch butterflies and other encounters with the forest’s flora and fauna. You can feel the impact the forest has had on the group members, and how regular contact with it has reinforced their relationship with nature as a whole. “It’s amazing, actually, when you do walk through it, because you don’t have to go very far in before you feel like you’re in such a radically different environment. Your whole body senses that as well,” Stocek, a recently retired specialized educator, tells me. 

One of Stocek’s favourite moments in the forest involved an attack. He entered the forest through the side with the reservoir with Lapointe, and was almost immediately inundated with mosquitoes and black flies. “It made me realize how important the forest was, because of all the wetlands. If you were inside, you’d see these undulating hills and areas where all the water collects, and that’s where life begins. It’s the great ooze, right? All those bugs come out of there, and then all the migrating birds come through every season, and that’s how the whole life cycle begins. We got a really nasty, vibrant example of how all of that works.”

We shouldn’t just consider the situation with Fairview forest as an individual case, Ziter stresses, but as part of a pattern of urban development. Data released by Statistics Canada in November 2022 showed that over the past twenty-two years, urban greenness has dropped in every province. This trend was most pronounced in large urban centres, with Montreal seeing a decline of 9.3 percent over two decades.

Even within cities, access to green space is heavily influenced by socioeconomic factors. The CBC reported that the higher the median income of a neighbourhood, the higher its tree cover is. Pointe-Claire is richer and older than many other neighbourhoods in the city; its median after-tax household income in 2020 was $78,000, compared to $56,000 for Montreal. The municipality is more than 70 percent white. The SFF group, gathering together in rain and hail and sleet to keep developers away from their cherished woodland, may not seem like the picture of privilege, but many residents in Montreal do not even have green spaces to defend. And if green space can't be preserved in even the most privileged municipalities, what does that mean for the rest of us?

“It’s really important that we consider the urban landscape more holistically,” Ziter says. If we lose one small green space, that may not have a huge impact on biodiversity. But if it’s a repeated act, the effects pile up. These spaces are not only individually important to their surrounding communities, she says, but they also connect natural spaces and protect biodiversity across the city as a whole. 

Losing a forest means losing biodiversity. It means losing protection. It means losing something that’s harder for me to define—a space that can bring us comfort and joy, a moment of wonder or awe, a memorable dozen or so bug bites. And as our cities increasingly develop, this loss is ongoing, and compounding.

The first SFF meetings happened on Zoom, during the early months of the pandemic. SFF launched an online petition that now has over 27,000 signatories, and hand-delivered a paper petition to nearly every household in Pointe-Claire, barring condo buildings. They wrote letters and went to city council meetings. They got busy. 

In late November 2020, the SFF started what they call their  “weekly celebrations” at the intersection of Brunswick and Fairview. Their goal was to spread information about the plants and animals living in the forest and its overall ecological impact, and to help people understand the importance they saw in their cause. Inspired by Greta Thunberg’s weekly school strikes, the celebrations became a ritual. At a time when people were feeling isolated and disconnected from others due to Covid-19, the group created a necessary sense of community. “We just started coming because what else would we be doing on a Saturday?” says Lussier.

Other than Lussier, who is a forty-three-year-old Pointe-Claire resident and former teacher, most of the members I meet are long-time, retired West Island residents. They feel that the group’s activities have given people from different age groups a rare chance to interact and work alongside each other. “There aren’t enough opportunities for intergenerational contact these days,” argues Ann Beer, a retired professor. Beer grew up in the Wirral Peninsula in England, where she was surrounded by nature, and joining the protests during lockdown helped reaffirm her relationship with the land. She says people will often come with their children during the summer. 

“I think many children, teenagers and young adults are now justifiably horrified when they see older adults who seem indifferent to the climate crisis and biodiversity loss, even though those realities will condemn younger generations to a very difficult and dangerous future,” says Beer. She believes that seeing older people mobilize for the environment at these protests can help give younger people a sense of hope. The Raging Grannies, an international network of activist groups made up of older women, have attended some of the protests. Kids will come, too, with their own handmade posters about how the forest needs to be saved.

Speaking with the group about their drive to fight for the forest, I feel a sense of care not just between the members, but between an entire community. Our conversation at the intersection is interrupted every few minutes by honks of encouragement, and Lussier waves back at each car with a smile, never letting an expression of support go ignored. Beer tells me residents will often come talk to them and ask questions about their efforts.  “People have been so amazing. I used to think the West Island was a bit of a car desert and that no one talked to each other, and this has transformed that feeling.” Members of the group feel like they’re part of the neighbourhood now. 

At the group’s one hundredth protest, over sixty people were there to celebrate. Representatives from different environmental groups from around the city joined in, making the day feel special for the members. A photo from that day posted on Facebook shows the Raging Grannies under a private property sign, holding up middle fingers. They formed a human chain around part of the forest, with attendees holding on to a rope. It left a big impact. “That was kind of emotional for me,” says Lussier. 

That isn’t to say things are perfect. Someone yells out “Get a life!” from their car window. Lussier tells them to have a nice day and laughs it off as they drive away. “For every one person who’s against us, there’s thirty who support us,” she says.

Many of SFF’s members have been involved in similar grassroots efforts in the West Island. Stacho has been a part of the Green Coalition, a non-profit environmental organization which promotes conservation and assists others in acquiring natural spaces, since the early 2000s. She is also a co-founder of Sauvons L’Anse-à-L’Orme, a citizens' group that was instrumental in the protection of a plot of land located next to Parc-nature de l’Anse-à-l’Orme, in Senneville, on the western tip of the island. That area is now part of the future Grand parc de l’Ouest, which will bring together the five nature parks located in the West Island to create a green belt. Lapointe was involved in the creation of Pointe-Claire’s forty-hectare Terra-Cotta Natural Park in the seventies and eighties. 

Lussier’s involvement in local organizing is more recent. When asked questions about her life, she’s quick to deflect attention away from her own story and toward her cause. Her mom was an activist, and she was raised to believe that if she wants change to happen, she can make it happen. She’s made changes in her own life that she views as important contributions to protecting the environment, and started attending council meetings nine years ago. “I think you can become kind of jaded,” says Lussier.  “You think, ‘oh no, I can’t make changes as an individual.’ But here we are, as a community of people, within a larger community of people, all working together to make change.”

For other members, joining SFF was their first time getting involved in activism and local politics. Ralph Stocek had never been to a town hall meeting. Despite living in Pointe-Claire, he only learned about the forest during the municipality’s 2021 elections. “It just made me really mad,” he says. He started following SFF’s activities over the course of a few months, until he decided to attend one of the protests. “It was freezing cold. It was the middle of winter. But people were so wonderful and engaging, and remarkably knowledgeable. I thought, ‘oh, I just got to be a part of this.’”

Stocek’s involvement with the group made him realize the significance of the wider impact of grassroots activism within Montreal. SFF is a small group, but he’s learned about others like theirs trying to protect land across Montreal. “When you add all those little groups up, it’s a lot of people and a lot of interest.”

The group talks to other organizations, like the Green Coalition and Mouvement d’action régional en environnement, on a regular basis. They share information, success stories and frustrations with each other. On their Facebook page, Lussier often posts updates about similar efforts happening elsewhere in Montreal, like the successful movement to protect and reclaim Parc des Gorilles in Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie. After ten years of citizen advocacy, the group Friends of Gorilla Park won the City of Montreal’s approval to turn the vacant lot into a green space.

The activists have built a strong network of support. While their in-person protests range from three or four people to over fifty depending on the weather and time of year, their Facebook group now boasts one thousand members who post about the latest news involving the development project, organize cleanups, make plans to attend town halls and share articles and photos about their activities and issues related to the environment.

I ask Stacho, who has been a member of SFF since the beginning, how the group has persevered for two years. “It’s almost like a bit of a personal challenge now. But also, we really feel like the community is counting on us,” she answers. “We have our regular passers-by, people who beep and honk and wave, and it would be like letting them down. When you take on something like this, you feel a responsibility to carry it through.”

Save Fairview Forest is hopeful about where things stand. As of January 2023, the lot is under a temporary development freeze put in place by Pointe-Claire in February 2022, a big win for the group. “There were tears of joy!” Lussier says. No construction permits are allowed to be issued for the areas under the freeze, which will be in place until 2024 and will allow the city to hold public consultations before revising its urban planning program. 

The Communauté métropolitaine de Montréal (CMM) followed suit with a development freeze that included the lot in May 2022. The CMM oversees the planning and finances of eighty-two municipalities comprising the Greater Montreal region. It considered Fairview forest as a “terrestrial and wetland environment of metropolitan interest.”

The freezes have given SFF important momentum. “They said, ‘this is important, we better rethink [this].’ How do you then say, ‘no, it’s okay, we prefer to pour concrete all over it?’” Stocek tells me. 

Pointe-Claire’s development freeze didn’t go over easily with everyone. Many supporters of the development project cite the need for more densification and housing for the West Island’s growing population.

Pointe-Claire city councillor Eric Stork speculates that the majority of his citizens would accept the project if it were properly explained to them. Stork, who has sat on council since 2017, says residents need to understand the trade-offs, such as avoiding urban sprawl. Stork points to the housing crisis as a reason the project would be beneficial. “There’s no place for seniors to live in Pointe-Claire. They’re going to be forced to move out of their homes. Cadillac Fairview is going to build the empty-nester home that they would move into because there’s no other place in Pointe-Claire to go. It’s not as simple as it looks to make the global decision.”

While it’s true that Montreal is experiencing a housing crisis, many experts agree that affordable housing, which is rarely popular with developers, is key to solving the issue. The city is currently experiencing its highest average rent increases since the early 2000s. According to data released by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation in February 2022, only 13 percent of units in Montreal could be considered affordable for those with an income below $25,000 a year. So far, Cadillac Fairview’s housing plans include a four-hundred-unit senior residence and rental condo towers. It’s unclear what the cost of these units will be, but there’s been no mention of affordability.

It would also be extremely lucrative for the city, note others.  “The zone where the Fairview mall is generates around 10 percent of the city’s tax revenue. Anything up there is going to hit the bottom line of the city significantly,” says Brent Cowan, a Pointe-Claire city councillor since 2017. 

Cadillac Fairview took legal action against the city in March 2022, stating that they want to ensure that their “residential mixed-use living community” will not be impacted by the freeze. The company argued that it formally filed its plans for the development project in 2021 and its project should be considered under the city’s planning program at that time, exempting it from the freeze, a claim that Pointe-Claire mayor Tim Thomas has repeatedly denied. [Editor’s note: Thomas did not respond to Maisonneuve’s requests for comment, and neither did Cadillac Fairview.]

The project has been a source of tension and chaos within Pointe-Claire’s government. A month after Cadillac Fairview made their unsuccessful request for an exemption, Thomas, who ran under the platform of protecting the forest, posted a Facebook video claiming that other council members had drafted a by-law that included a plan which would exclude the Fairview parking lot (which is part of the company’s development project) from the freeze. In his video, he denounced what he saw as a covert attempt to re-introduce the exemption and encouraged residents to attend the next council meeting. Other council members alleged that the mayor violated confidentiality laws by disclosing the exclusion. On their own Facebook page, SFF chose to focus on their mission to protect the forest, ignoring the online arguments between officials. The council continued to go back-and-forth on the issue, but ultimately decided in May 2022 to keep the lot within the freeze. 

While SFF hasn’t given up, Cadillac Fairview hasn’t either. In July 2022, a few months after the development freeze, the company felled trees without a permit in order to build a fence around the forest, a move that resulted in the City of Pointe-Claire issuing a work stoppage. The developer issued a statement that it was “in compliance with all applicable regulations,” another claim Thomas denies. 

On January 29, 2023, Pointe-Claire city council held a divisive special council meeting to put forth a resolution for city manager Karina Verdon to privately meet with Cadillac Fairview representatives “in an attempt to work out with them a mutually agreeable path forward.” The resolution also states that it is “in furtherance of a settlement of litigation between the City and Cadillac Fairview.”  The mayor—in a move Cowan describes to me as a temper tantrum—used his veto to defer the vote to a regular council meeting on February 7, but another special meeting was called by council on January 30 to reintroduce the resolution.

Taking to Facebook again, the mayor wrote a post detailing his objection to the resolution and the second special council meeting: “I vetoed their original resolution to give citizens more time to learn about and be heard on this issue.” Thomas wrote that he opposes allowing Cadillac Fairview to design its own consultation process as an equal partner with the city. Cowan hopped in the comments to call Thomas’s post an unhelpful, fabricated rant.

According to councillors Cowan and Stork, who both voted in favour of the resolution, the goal of the resolution is to start holding the public consultations that are supposed to be taking place under the freeze. They believe the mayor has been stalling on moving things forward. “City council is tired of hearing delays, delays, delays, and we want to push this to the forefront of the agenda,” Stork says. At the January 30 council meeting, Thomas argued that “there have been no delays whatsoever.” The resolution passed 6-2.

According to a letter written by Verdon to Cadillac Fairview, her role will involve regularly updating Cadillac Fairview and members of council about the plans for the zones being considered for development, forming a working committee with Pointe-Claire residents (with their selection criteria being agreed upon by Cadillac Fairview and council) and working to eventually exempt the zones from the development freeze. The letter ends with Verdon calling Cadillac Fairview a “landmark” of Pointe-Claire and wishing its development success. Thomas took to Facebook to share and denounce the letter.

The resolution raises a lot of red flags for SFF. “You have a corporation with a vested financial interest in the future of the zone making a decision about what kind of public consultations are going to happen,” Lussier notes. The group has serious concerns about Cadillac Fairview’s involvement in shaping the public consultations.

While the resolution came as a surprise to the group, they see it as just one chapter in their efforts. “We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing because we don’t have a choice,” Lussier says.

Save Fairview Forest’s goal is to have the forest fully protected from future development—no temporary measures. The group isn’t against urban development at large, Lussier notes. Their protest isn’t about NIMBY-ism—they acknowledge that people need places to live. They just want other spaces to be considered first, instead of losing this rare bit of forested land. She points to the vast parking lots spread across the city as more suitable options. 

Managing sprawl through urban development is critical to minimizing our impact on the environment. Promoting population growth within the urban core and established suburbs, rather than expanding further into off-island regions, helps minimize car dependency, environmental degradation and biodiversity loss. Development is an important part of building denser, more walkable cities, says Ziter, but that shouldn’t happen at the expense of high-quality green spaces. Prioritizing other spaces for development is preferable, she argues, because urban green spaces aren’t easily replaceable once they’re gone.

In November 2022, ahead of the UN biodiversity conference (COP15), Montreal pledged to protect 10 percent of its territory by 2030, up from 8 percent. “We need to think really critically about whether we can afford to keep developing existing green spaces and still be able to meet those conservation goals,” Ziter says.

Stocek mentions that a lot of his friends feel that the group needs to be strategic and compromise with Cadillac Fairview, especially given how much more powerful the corporation is compared to a small group of residents. They believe that reaching an agreement with Cadillac Fairview on a mixed-use area with some forested land and condo towers is more realistic. Stocek completely disagrees. “There’s no negotiation for me. The negotiation is: do it somewhere else.” 

What will Fairview forest look like if SFF secures its protection? Once a space is protected, Ziter argues that local residents should be involved in its management, especially when there’s already a dedicated community support group as with the Fairview forest. The management of these spaces depends on what goals people have for it—a space intended to maximize temperature regulation, for instance, would be managed differently from one intended to maximize bird biodiversity. 

Lapointe dreams of a park that connects to the rest of the Grand parc de l’Ouest, with proximity to bike paths, but it can be difficult navigating the different people of concern and options for the forest. Lussier says it’s complicated to manage so many people’s interests. The group has to consider different levels of government, the CMM, Cadillac Fairview and Montreal’s transportation agency. “It can be a little overwhelming sometimes. But our goal is just to save 100 percent [of the forest]. We’re trying whatever we can through those avenues.” 

For now, the fight is ongoing. It’s hard to say with any certainty what the future holds for Fairview forest, especially when the stakes include the interests of a corporation worth over $40 billion. Sometimes, groups like SFF are successful: in October 2022, after years of organizing, residents in Montreal's Hochelaga-Maisonneuve neighbourhood successfully protected parts of the Boisé Steinberg wooded area from development. But sometimes they aren’t. Nevertheless, many of the green spaces we do have in Montreal wouldn’t exist without the advocacy of concerned citizens, claims Ziter.

Along with the groups in Rosemont, Hochelaga-Maisonneuve and Senneville, there are also organizations like Les Amis du Champ des Possibles, which now co-manages an abandoned industrial lot that they fought to protect in the Plateau-MontRoyal and named Champ des Possibles—the field of possibilities. Sometimes, these efforts can take years before they come to fruition. In Beaconsfield, just a short drive away from PointeClaire, citizens fought for thirty years to protect Angell Woods from development, and it was officially designated a nature park in 2015. 

These days, when I pass by the forest on my bus ride to work, I consider all the connections existing within and around it. I think of the brown snake, which keeps losing places to call home. I think of Norm Lapointe, no longer able to ride his bike through the paths he’s taken for decades, and Sue Stacho, who has had to fight this battle more than once. I think of the communities across this city working together to save small plots of land they love. And Geneviève Lussier, Ann Beer and all the others who will be at the corner of Brunswick and Fairview next week, and the week after that, no matter the weather. ⁂

Sara Hashemi is a writer and fact-checker based in Tiohtià:ke/ Montreal. Their work explores social and environmental justice, culture and the intersections of these topics.