September 16, 2020

Freedom to Fly Fund at Work – A Refresher


Many members will remember 2016 as the year COPA achieved a significant victory in preserving our freedom to fly, preventing the construction of eight wind turbines in the vicinity of Collingwood (CNY3) and Clearview (CLV2) airfields in Ontario. The 5oo-foot turbines were to be constructed adjacent to the circuit for CNY3 and even within the downwind stretch for runway 16 at CLV2. COPA’s team rapidly mobilized to advocate against the project, knowing that this case would have national implications for our freedom to fly.

COPA’s resistance to the project first began when Kevin and Gail Elwood, COPA members and owners of CLV2, brought the issue to head office. Kevin Elwood, now a COPA director representing Southern Ontario, had the project on his radar for years and was alarmed when approval was granted in February 2016, despite concerns for human and wildlife safety. The decision was also appealed by a number of concerned parties including the towns of Collingwood and Stayner and the owners of Collingwood Airport. COPA participated in the proceedings through COPA’s legal counsel Glenn Grenier and COPA director Conrad Hatcher.

COPA put the Freedom to Fly Fund to work and concentrated efforts on two fronts: rallying members to petition Transport Minister Marc Garneau to stop the project, and compiling undeniable evidence of the dangers of the project to present to the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) overseeing the appeal. On the first front, COPA members answered the call, emailing and calling their local MPs to ask Minister Garneau to stop the construction of the turbines that would inevitably endanger pilots. On the latter front, Grenier and Hatcher presented a vigorous legal opposition during the two-week hearing before the ERT, submitting numerous arguments bringing light to the concerns for pilot safety.

The ERT’s final decision came on October 7, 2016, ruling that the proposed construction did indeed represent a “serious threat to human health”, thus revoking approval for the project. The efforts of COPA’s members and defence team had paid off. In their report, the ERT quoted many of the points presented by COPA as well as concerns about potential impacts on wildlife, specifically the little brown bat.

This precedent-setting victory is an excellent example of COPA’s ability to successfully defend our freedom to fly through the work of the Freedom to Fly Fund. This will not be the last time this freedom is challenged, so we encourage all members to contact us if they find themselves in a situation where the fund may be of assistance. More information on how to request support and contribute to the Freedom to Fly Fund can be found on our website.