When it comes to Boat Harbour Northern Pulp and its predecessors have been everything but good corporate citizens. At the same time successive provincial governments, in the interests of retaining mill jobs and spin off operations, have been lax in enforcing regulations regarding both the mill and boat harbour.
With Boat Harbour’s impending shutdown the mills plan is to replace its existing treatment plant and dump the resulting effluent into the Northumberland Strait. In effect creating a second toxic waste dump – waste that will in future prove more impossible to clean up than in its current location and more damaging in its effects on marine life. As fishers, tourism operators, environmentalists and area residents contend, it is an unacceptable option.
At the same time there is genuine and legitimate concern about the loss of jobs should the mill be forced to close.Not just at the mill but in its supporting spin off employment. In a letter to the Chronicle Herald Daniel Paul, a Mi’kmaq elder from Halifax- after admonishing non-First Nations residents of the county for not demanding that the mill be shut down when effluent began to poision Boat Harbour- wrote:” The mill is an important economic entity for the area and for the province, and therefore must remain open.”
Which brings us back to Boat Harbour and its planned remediation. It is hoped by community residents that after remediation the area can be returned to its previous uses. In my asking numerous people if they would allow their children to eat a fish caught there after remediation the response was a unanimous no. Questioned by Brendan Ahern of The News, remediation project manager, Ken Swain, was reported as saying that the containment site will need to be monitored perpetually after remediation is complete. Extrapolated to the planned pipeline in the Strait, this should be a grave concern.
As Jim Vibert reiterated in a recent article in the Herald, Premier McNeil whose government passed the law in 2015 to shut down Boat Harbour, has said the deadline is firm unless an extension is approved by the Pictou Landing Mi’kmaq community. In the same article, Mr Vibert contends there is no compromise in sight in relation to the closure of Boat Harbour and the addition of a new effluent pipe into the strait.
There is, in fact, a compromise possible, but it is dependant on the continued generosity of the long suffering Pictou Landing Mi’kmaq community and Northern Pulp’s willingness to participate in concrete steps on the path to reconciliation and atonement.
Northern Pulp currently manages 600,000 acres of land. The mill needs to sit down with band leaders and negotiate land transfers to the community. Land transfers generous enough that it would be difficult for the community to reject. Land that may, and should, include river, lake and/ or ocean frontage that would offer the same recreational and spiritual value of those they have lost. Land that would be of value to native woodsman and women for commercial use, if that is what is desired. In short, land that is judged by the community to, at least in part, right grievous wrongs. The community would continue to hold any and all present lands and property they currently hold title to.
In return, the mill would construct their new treatment facility and pipe its resulting effluent into Boat Harbour. Remediation would continue on as best as possible with the knowledge further pollution would occur. There is some question of the long term viability of the mill but such a move by Northern Pulp would signal their serious intention to remain a valuable employer in this area over the long term. This, rather than creating a second waste site, and in short order leaving another mess for taxpayers to clean up.
From the perspective of our party the age of corporate welfare is drawing to a close. Business must be personally responsible for their actions while showing respect for the community and fairness to its residents. The job of our party, in this case, is to insure treaty status is conferred on any and all new lands handed over to the Pictou Landing Mi’kmaq community by Northern Pulp. As a candidate my personal responsibility is to insure that happens.
PPC Candidate Central Nova