First open letter warns of forest destruction in Greenbelt

TORONTO | Traditional territory of many nations – including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples – and now home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples — Fifty religious leaders and organizations have signed an open letter saying Ontario’s proposed Highway 413 would pave thousands of acres of farmland and destroy Greenbelt forests stretching nearly six kilometres.

Letter signatories include the Anglican Diocese of Toronto, Mardi Tindal (past moderator of the United Church of Canada), EnviroMuslims, the Noor Cultural Centre and Order of Canada members Rabbi Arthur Bielfeld and the Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo, CM.

The letter — organized by the David Suzuki Foundation — is believed to be the first of its kind from people of faith and faith organizations opposed to the multi-billion-dollar freeway.

“First, dozens of scientists spoke out. Then it was Margaret Atwood and business leaders. Now faith leaders are raising the alarm over Highway 413,” said Foundation policy analyst Gideon Forman. “How many more leaders does the Ontario government need to hear from before they realize the folly of paving the Greenbelt during a climate crisis?”

Polling shows the public also widely opposes a Greenbelt highway. A survey done last year by EKOS Research found 76 per cent of Ontarians agree the “Greenbelt is no place for a new four-to-six lane highway.”

In recent weeks the movement for Greenbelt protection has surged.

“People in towns and cities across the province are taking to the streets to protest Greenbelt destruction,” Forman said. “Ontarians from a whole host of communities are joining the movement.”

An anti-413 petition on the Foundation’s website now has over 40,000 signatures, thousands of which have come in since the beginning of December.

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For more information or a media interview, please contact:

Stefanie Carmichael, David Suzuki Foundation,, (437) 221-4692

The letter:



We, the undersigned faith leaders, are concerned about the future of southern Ontario’s Greenbelt.

We raise this concern out of our love for nature and the beauty of creation.

The Greenbelt — a magnificent web of forests, rivers and farms — is vital if we are to address the climate emergency, protect local food growers and provide opportunities for natural healing and rejuvenation.

We are concerned, in particular, about the threat posed by Highway 413.

This freeway would slice through the Greenbelt, destroying nearly six kilometres of forest and 75 wetlands. It would pave 2000 acres of farmland and threaten dozens of at-risk animals.

Congestion will not be solved by new highways that incentivize additional traffic. Rather, we need expansion of public transit — including GO trains, electric buses and light rail — and the creation of more walkable and bike-friendly communities.

The $6 to $10 billion required to build Highway 413 should be spent on pressing community needs, not an expressway that deepens the climate crisis and paves our Greenbelt.


  • The Revd Michael Coren M.Div (Hons)
  • Mardi Tindal, Past Moderator, The United Church of Canada
  • The Reverend Alexa Gilmour
  • John Brewin, St. Aidan’s Anglican Church, Toronto
  • The Reverend Shawn Newton
  • Rabbi Edward Elkin
  • Green Ummah
  • EnviroMuslims
  • Murray Lumley, member, Danforth Mennonite Church
  • Reverend Stephen Reist, Mennonite Church Eastern Canada
  • Rabbi Elyse Goldstein
  • Rabbi Arthur Bielfeld
  • Pastor Peter Haresnape, Toronto United Mennonite Church
  • Rev. Dr. Cheri DiNovo CM
  • Dalton Jantzi, member, Danforth Mennonite Church
  • Rev. Lynn Harrison
  • The Rev’d Canon Andrea Budgey
  • Cameron Watts, Minister of Forest Grove United Church and Co-chair, Faith in the City
  • Anglican Diocese of Toronto
  • Samira Kanji, President, Noor Cultural Centre
  • KAIROS Guelph
  • Rev. Stephen Milton, Lawrence Park Community Church
  • Rev. Jason Francis Meyers, Metropolitan United Church
  • (Rev) Michael Van Dusen, St. Aidan’s Anglican Church, Toronto
  • The Rev. Dr. John Joseph Mastandrea, Minister of the Church, Manor Road United Church, Toronto
  • Pastor Bob Paterson-Watt, Woodbine Heights Baptist Church
  • Rev Brian McIntosh, Bloordale United Church, Etobicoke, ON
  • Fr. Prakash A. Lohale, OP, Dominican Friars, Toronto
  • Fr. Jack Costello
  • Rev. Dr. Trevor Brisbin, Humber Valley United Church
  • Neighbourhood Unitarian Universalist Congregation
  • Rev Greg Daly, Minister, Beach United Church
  • Rev Michiko Bown-Kai, Glen Morris United Church
  • The Very Rev, the Hon. Lois Wilson, Former Moderator United Church of Canada
  • The Rev Dr Randy Naylor, Windemere United Church
  • Dr. Russ Daye, Minister, Bloor Street United Church
  • Rev. Jessica McCrae, Maple Grove United Church, Oakville ON
  • Rev. Allan Baker, United Church of Canada
  • Rev. Bruce Sweet, United Church of Canada
  • Rev. Harold Wells, United Church of Canada
  • Rev. Jennifer Palin, United Church of Canada
  • Rev. Cynthia O’Connell, Minister, Glebe Road United
  • Rev. Louise Mahood
  • Rev. Dr. Robin Wardlaw (retired), East End United Church, Toronto
  • Rabbi Audrey S. Pollack, MAHL, DD, Solel Congregation, Mississauga
  • The Rev. Dr. Deborah Hart, minister of Deer Park United Church
  • Toronto Area Interfaith Council
  • John Gell, clerk, Toronto Monthly Meeting, The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
  • Rev. Dr. Ted Reeve, Coordinating Minister, St. Paul’s Centre/ United Church of Canada, Orillia ON
  • Dr. Simon Appolloni, Co-author, The Green Bible: Words of Love for a Suffering Planet
  • Rabbi Michal Shekel
  • Rev. Dr. David Kim-Cragg, St. Matthew’s United Church, Richmond Hill