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Metrolinx begins to clear trees at Osgoode Hall, agrees to 'pause work' ahead of hearing on their removal

Metrolinx crews start to remove historic trees at Osgoode Hall on Feb. 4, 2023. Metrolinx crews start to remove historic trees at Osgoode Hall on Feb. 4, 2023.

A spokesperson for the Law Society of Ontario (LSO) says Metrolinx began cutting down historic trees at Osgoode Hall in Toronto on Saturday before the Ontario Superior Court could hear an injunction to prevent their clearing.

“Metrolinx began clearing trees on the grounds of Osgoode Hall this morning in advance of the proceedings,” Wynna Brown said in an email.

A hearing on the injunction to stop the action by the Crown agency began at 2 p.m.

News of Friday’s injunction application came after reports surfaced that Metrolinx could begin cutting down the five trees, which are believed to be hundreds of years old, as early as this weekend to make way for the future site of an Ontario Line subway station.

According to city councillor Josh Matlow, who was at Osgoode Hall Saturday morning, Metrolinx agreed to halt the removal of the trees following pressure from protesters at the location until a decision on the injunction had been made.

“A victory in the midst of a long fight,” Matlow said in a tweet.

In an email to CP24, Metrolinx confirmed that they agreed to "temporarily pause" the work pending the results of the hearing.

"Following the hearing, we look forward to proceeding to get this critical transit line built," Metrolinx said.

Video from the site showed contractors chopping off some of the trees’ limbs Saturday morning. Matlow told CP24 that work began as early as 8 a.m.

Green fabric is tied around trees at Osgoode Hall in Toronto on Friday February 3, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Liz Driver is the director of nearby Campbell House and interim chair of the Build Ontario Line Differently (BOLD) Community Coalition.

She said the recent action taken by Metrolinx is “shameful” and demonstrates the “irreversible damage” that is to come if they follow through with their plans.

“Showing up with chainsaws when they knew that the court would be convening. They (Metrolinx) think they’re above the law and they’re a provincial agency. It’s is shameful,” she said.

Driver said she hopes the Ontario Superior Court will grant the injunction to pause the work at Osgoode and that stakeholders will further discuss a third-party review, commissioned by the city, that looks at other possible station locations.

“We all want good transit, but we want to build good transit and not damage our city in the process,” Driver added.

This isn’t the first time the trees at the site of Ontario’s highest courts have been threatened. They were originally slated to be chopped down on Dec. 5 of 2022 for an archeological assessment of the property.

The Law Society of Ontario announced in November that the work had been postponed due to public pushback, which they described at the time as a “temporary reprieve.”

The 15.6-kilometre Ontario Line, which will have 15 stops, is set to run from Exhibition Place to the Ontario Science Centre following its completion in 2031.

Nine other areas in the area of Osgoode Hall were assessed for potential locations of the future Osgoode Station.

However, Parsons Corporation, a U.S.-based infrastructure engineering firm contracted to carry out the assessment, found that Osgoode Hall appeared to be “the most suitable option.” 

With files from CP24's Bryann Aguilar and Chris Fox Top Stories

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