Aquatic animals left to die after developer drains wetlands in Brampton, leaving residents horrified
Alexis Wright/The Pointer

Aquatic animals left to die after developer drains wetlands in Brampton, leaving residents horrified

Hundreds of fish and other species that rely on water for survival including turtles were left to starve and suffocate to death as a housing developer, Treasure Hill Homes owned by Flintshire Building Group Corp., installed and left a drainage pump powered by gasoline unattended in two separate wetlands for at least seven days, subsequently killing or seriously harming all surrounding aquatic life in violation of the federal Fisheries Act.

“This developer forged ahead and eliminated this habitat in a matter of a few days, despite local residents, for years, fighting against the destruction and advocating for preservation,” a local resident who did not want her name used, told The Pointer.


Wetlands in Brampton were drained recently to make way for homes, killing the fish and other species that were supposed to be protected.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)


A permit was issued by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) in December 2022 for the housing currently being developed by Treasure Hill Homes, with conditions. 

“These works include the removal of two tableland irrigation ponds that were created to serve irrigation function and as a hazard feature in support of the former golf course, which naturalized over time. Please note, the irrigation ponds are located outside of TRCA’s regulation mapping,” a spokesperson for the TRCA wrote the Pointer in an email.

“The applicant’s environmental consultant noted that wildlife present during decommissioning of the irrigation ponds will be relocated as directed by a Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) fish and wildlife collection licence, which is not a component of TRCA’s review and/or regulatory requirements. The monitoring of such activities is also not under the purview of TRCA’s obligations.”

The two decommissioned ponds are located bottom centre and bottom left of the map, circled in blue.



According to the Ministry, prior to permit approval, other obligations agreed to by Flintshire and Treasure Hill included adding several compensation areas along the existing wetland (outlined in white on the map above) to “make up for” the removal of the two ponds pictured above. Valley enhancement plantings and a wetland complex within the valley were also proposed.

The MNRF noted it issued two permits to Beacon Environmental (hired by the developer) under the provincial Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act (FWCA), to "permit a qualified person to capture, handle and relocate fish and wildlife associated with the decommissioning process".

Beacon Environmental could not be reached despite multiple requests for comments on what animals were relocated, if at all, prior to the decommissioning process.

“A reputable builder will work with the MNRF, its residents, the community and ensure that the existing wildlife is preserved and, quite frankly, respected. The city is committed to becoming more healthy, resilient and environmentally sustainable. This statement does not reflect the actions that took place at this new development. What happened here [is] so profoundly obscene,” the area resident said. 

A spokesperson for the MNRF told The Pointer the ministry has been made aware of the ongoing situation regarding the decommissioning of both wetlands and it is investigating to find out if any violations under the permits or FWCA occurred. 

“[Our] Aurora, Midhurst and Owen Sound District were made aware of municipal/resident concerns regarding this project. District staff are working with the municipality to determine if any violations of the FWCA and the associated authorization conditions occurred. This review continues.”

Jamie Pyatt, Vice President of Development Engineering at Treasure Hill Homes, told The Pointer when approached near the sites in question, that the companies are “in compliance with all permits”. 

When asked if those permits gave permission to drain the wetlands while still full of fish and other living aquatic animals, Pyatt declined to comment.

Suffocation is a painful, and sometimes drawn out way to die. Panic sets in as the shortness of breath becomes evident with the decreasing oxygen levels. As the asphyxiation continues, the brain tries to protect itself by shutting down less important parts of the body one by one causing irreversible damage, often resulting in hypoxia or symptoms like hallucinations and pain before loss of consciousness lasting minutes, hours, or days.

Starvation can be even more agonizing, sometimes lasting for weeks before death. 

In this case, the fish that got stuck on the shoreline as the water was drained suffocated and the rest were abandoned in the mud puddle left at the bottom. After the gas pump ran out of fuel they likely suffocated due to a lack of oxygen left in the water as the unsupervised pump disturbed the settled mud along the sides and at the bottom of the pond causing it to become polluted. The lowering water level removed the protection that the aquatic vegetation offers wetlands, it also raises the temperature as the body of water shrinks and becomes shallow. 

Witnessed by multiple Brampton residents, The Pointer has confirmed hundreds of dead fish in both ponds along with at least one protected, at risk Snapping turtle—trained experts have estimated he is a male, approximately 35-40 years-old. Snapping turtles reach breeding age after about 30 years.


Newly hatched Snapping turtles (above) are released back to their home wetlands in August 2022. A breeding-aged Snapping turtle (bottom) in Brampton, May 2023. Turtles are crucial for maintaining stable, biodiverse wetlands; they scavenge for dead animals and vegetation, acting as natural filters for the water.

(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)


The Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks (MECP) has been made aware of the presence of the Snapping Turtle protected under the Species At Risk Act, though no indication has been given from the Ministry that any further action will be taken even though just four months ago, Minister of MECP, David Piccini, made an appearance in Brampton to announce a $75,000 grant given to the City to protect turtles at Loafer’s Lake.

“Is this how we want to live and raise our children and families in Brampton?” the resident asked. “I am fortunate to live in a neighborhood that has a thriving and vital and intact wetland. Its builder ensured that it was respected and included in their development plans. I frequent it daily and enjoy the sights and sounds of our frogs, rabbits, deer, foxes, nesting migratory birds, and turtles that have made Brampton their home.”

“We are better than this.”

The Fisheries Act regulated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) states:

  • 34.4(1) No person shall carry on any work, undertaking or activity, other than fishing, that results in the death of fish.


Ontario has lost over 85% of its wetlands in the last four decades due to urban development and human accelerated climate change.


Previously, these wetlands were irrigation ponds for the surrounding subdivisions and the Castlemore Golf and Country Club, a site of local controversy, which have naturalized over time.

Castlemore Golf and Country Club, established in 1962, started as 27 holes. Intracorp, the previous land owners (before Flintshire, purchased the course in 1998) reduced the footprint. By 2005, the course had shrunk down to 18 holes as the lands for the other 9 had been rezoned for housing. Just five years later, it was shrunk again to 9 holes. The conditions of the course had diminished so drastically by the time it closed in 2014 to begin the transition from commercial to residential land use, the Golf and Country Club received numerous 1-star scores online for its lack of maintenance. Some golfers noted many pins and holes were moved off of the greens onto fairways.

Those who purchased homes around the course have rallied against the development for over two decades with little to no success. Residents filed legal complaints with Flintshire which resulted in a 10 day Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) hearing in 2018.

Frank Carbone, who has since moved out of the surrounding area due to frustration over the results of the legal battle against Flintshire, was one of the residents who attempted to protect the property from development as he had purchased his house at a premium with the intention of backing onto a golf course for the rest of his time in Brampton, throughout his planned retirement. 

He and Steve Kirby, another resident backing onto the lands in question, had delegated to the City of Brampton—along with many others—against rezoning the lands from commercial to residential use. Over two decades, at least five attempts have been made to slow down or stop the plans for rezoning proposed by the landowners.

Flintshire chose to take the matter to the Ontario Land Tribunal due to Brampton Council’s lack of movement on the approvals for rezoning of the lands as residents continued to fight against the changes. Because of this delay, Flintshire met the requirements under the Planning Act—Request to amend the Official Plan-Failure of the City of Brampton to adopt the requested amendment—to bring the case to the tribunal against the City.

Among the defendants in the OLT case were Rosemary Keenan and Pauline Thornham, two members of the Sierra Club—a “group of concerned citizens who volunteer their time to carry out environmental campaigns and conservation projects within the Peel Region. The group's aim is to educate and empower the residents of Peel to be defenders and responsible stewards of the natural environment,” according to their website.

According to the public hearing documents, the Tribunal heard from three expert witnesses: Mark Bradley, qualified for land use planning matters and called by Flintshire; Joanne Lane, a qualified ecologist specializing in environmental impact assessment and called by Flintshire; Allan Ramsay, qualified for land use planning matters and called by Carbone and Kirby.

After an expensive legal struggle with no end in sight, residents had no choice but to settle. The final decision of the tribunal was in favour of Flintshire.  

“This is our community, our wildlife and our wetlands to monitor and protect. It's unfortunate to think that the residents that call this development site their home, the very same residents that used to enjoy all that nature has to offer, have been left to see all the wildlife now gone. The ponds that supported this wildlife are now gone. Drained away. All life that was supported by these wetlands have seen their demise,” the resident who did not want to be named said. 

“As a volunteer with a conservation group and a long standing resident of Brampton, this is not what I have witnessed at other development properties over the years.“

“We must do better than this.”



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