Court decision expected Friday on injunction to stop Metrolinx tree removal at Osgoode Hall

Lawyers representing the Law Society of Ontario have presented their arguments in a virtual courtroom, outlining why the society believes the province’s Superior Court of Justice should grant an injunction to stop Metrolinx from proceeding with a plan to cut down trees at Osgoode Hall in Toronto.

The provincial transit agency said the trees have to come down so it can proceed with the next steps to build a subway station for the new Ontario line. 

An interim injunction, which was granted by Justice William Chalmers last weekend, is set to expire at midnight on Friday. 

On Thursday, Justice Charles Hackland heard arguments from the law society’s counsel, and will hear from lawyers for Metrolinx when court resumes on Friday. 

Linda Rothstein, a lawyer representing the law society, gave a detailed account of the group’s communications and meetings with Metrolinx, beginning in summer 2020.

She argued that throughout the last two and a half years, Metrolinx chose to provide the law society and the public with limited information about its plans — and its justification for them. 

‘A jewel in the city’

Rothstein said it wasn’t until last week that the law society heard from Metrolinx that if the trees did not come down right away, there would be “inordinate delays” to the project overall, and significant cost penalties. 

Rothstein called Osgoode hall a “jewel in the city,” and argued that the heritage value of the site — which is owned jointly by the law society and the province — must be viewed as a whole, and not as individual parts. 

“This is a very, very serious incursion on a treasure,” Rothstein said. 

A drone image of the trees at Osgoode Hall, which the Law Society of Ontario calls an important greenspace and significant heritage site in the core of downtown Toronto. (CBC)

She said the law society’s stance is that Metrolinx must meaningfully evaluate a third party-review, which looks at the options for the subway stop, and must at a “bare minimum” seriously consider the viability of an adjacent site at Campbell House Museum. 

One of the law society’s other lawyers, Mannu Chowdhury, said the society recognizes the importance of expanding and improving public transit, but added choosing between that and protecting heritage is an “impossible choice.” 

He said the two should not be pitted against each other, and that it should be possible to achieve both. 

Lawyers for Metrolinx will present their arguments at 9:30 am on Friday. 

In addition to the application from the law society, the Haudenosaunee Development Institute has also filed a separate application for an injunction. Justice Hackland is set to hear from its lawyers on Friday as well. 

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