Pictou Landing chief vows to protect reserve land as pulp mill’s permit is extended

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PICTOU LANDING - Pictou Landing First Nation Chief Andrea Paul promised today to end the flow of pulp wastewater into nearby Boat Harbour by “any means necessary” as Nova Scotia Environment Minister, Randy Delorey, prepares to extend Northern Pulp’s permit to dump wastewater into the former tidal lagoon

The chief says the minister’s decision violates an agreement reached with the Band in 1995 and flies in the face of a recent Nova Scotia Liberal party resolution calling upon the government to take action on Boat Harbour.

“We will use any means necessary to protect our land and our people,” said Paul in a release on Thursday. “What else can we do? Our own provincial government is ignoring the law.”

Exposure to odours associated with pulp mills, like those emanating from Boat Harbour, has been linked to adverse health effects. In 1995 the province agreed to close the Boat Harbour wastewater treatment facility by Dec. 31, 2005. In exchange the First Nation agreed not to take legal or other action against the facility for 10 years. The 2005 deadline was pushed out to Dec. 31, 2008 in the hope that closure of the facility could be avoided by modifying the system. No such modification took place. In a letter dated Dec. 4, 2008 the Conservative government of the day reaffirmed the province’s commitment to close the Boat Harbour treatment facility.

However neither the NDP nor the Liberals have lived up to the agreement since. This is likely due to the $100 million price tag for a new facility, which the province agreed to absorb in 1995 as part of a separate deal struck with the mill owners.

The mill’s owner cannot discharge wastewater into Boat Harbour without approval of the minister under the Environment Act. The previous NDP environment minister issued an approval in 2011, which was extended one year ago. That approval ends on April 19, 2014. The new Liberal environment minister has decided to extend the approval for now, allowing Northern Pulp to continue to pipe its wastewater into Boat Harbour.

Chief Paul said extending the approval violates the 1995 agreement.

“Under constitutional law the Province has a duty to consult with a First Nation before making any decision that could adversely impact its rights. Where adverse impacts are identified, the Province has a duty to accommodate those rights in making the decision,” she said. “This process often leads to accommodation agreements setting out how the rights of the First Nation will be respected in the government’s plans. Accommodation agreements reached during the consultation process are part of the sacred trust between the Crown and Aboriginal people.

“If the Province won’t honour accommodation agreements why consult at all? If the province does not recognize the rule of law why should we?”

In 2010 the First Nation sued the province and the owners of the pulp mill seeking an injunction against the use of Boat Harbour as a wastewater treatment facility. The lawsuit is making its way through the courts.

“We will of course continue with the lawsuit in an effort to stop the adverse impacts on our health, but we will now take other action that has proven effective in other parts of the country.”

She did not elaborate on what that other action might be.

At its recent annual convention, the Nova Scotia Liberal Party passed a resolution calling upon the Liberal government to take immediate and effective action to clean up Boat Harbour.

“Hopefully the Premier will listen to the members of his own party,” said Paul. “I look forward to meeting with him on this issue soon.”

Organizations: First Nation, Nova Scotia Liberal Party, NDP

Geographic location: Boat Harbour

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