Call to ac­tion

Pic­tou Land­ing Chief An­drea Paul stresses the im­por­tance of clos­ing Boat Har­bour Treat­ment Fa­cil­ity on sched­ule

The News (New Glasgow) - - FRONT PAGE - BY ADAM MACIN­NIS

Pic­tou Land­ing First Na­tion Chief An­drea Paul never had the op­por­tu­nity to see Boat Har­bour be­fore a dam was put in place, chang­ing it from a tidal es­tu­ary into a treat­ment fa­cil­ity, but she’s heard the sto­ries from elders in the com­mu­nity.

Boat Har­bour was once a place the peo­ple trusted. When they were hun­gry, they found food there. When they were sick, they sought nat­u­ral reme­dies at the shore­line and when peo­ple came and tried to take away the chil­dren to res­i­den­tial schools, that’s where they hid.

But trust was bro­ken when in 1967 the tidal es­tu­ary was used to re­ceive un­treated pulp ef­flu­ent. Paul has been told sto­ries of how within days all the fish were killed.

“Noth­ing lives in Boat Har­bour,” she said. “It’s so toxic, noth­ing lives there.”

One elder told her he saw fish gath­ered to­gether in one spot gasp­ing for air. He could pick them up with his hands.

“They de­stroyed an en­vi­ron­ment that our peo­ple sur­vived off of,” she said.

North­ern Pulp has stated in the past that the ef­flu­ent cur­rently flow­ing into Boat Har­bour meets or ex­ceeds all fed­eral en­vi­ron­men­tal stan­dards, but Paul said her peo­ple do not trust the mill.

Speak­ing to Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Pic­tou County Coun­cil on Mon­day, Jan. 7, Paul told of how peo­ple in her com­mu­nity are scared to use air ex­chang­ers for fear the air pol­lu­tion from North­ern Pulp will con­tam­i­nate the air their breath­ing. The re­sult is that many homes are badly dam­aged by mould. Res­i­dents don’t grow gar­dens be­cause they worry that the ground is also pol­luted. Dis­trust is so strong that many mem­bers of the band fear that even their own

chief and coun­cil could be bribed, Paul said.

“The water we are sur­rounded by is all pol­luted. For many years my com­mu­nity has had to deal with this and try to find res­o­lu­tion to how do we clean this is­sue up?” she said.

The break in 2014, which leaked 47 mil­lion litres of pulp ef­flu­ent onto Pic­tou Land­ing First Na­tion land, was the tip­ping point. The peo­ple of Pic­tou Land­ing held a protest block­ade un­til the gov­ern­ment agreed to close the Boat Har­bour Treat­ment Fa­cil­ity. In

May 2015, the Boat Har­bour Act was of­fi­cially passed with sup­port from all par­ties in the Nova Sco­tia Leg­is­la­ture.

But now North­ern Pulp says it won’t be able to com­plete the con­struc­tion of a new treat­ment fa­cil­ity in time and are ask­ing for an ex­ten­sion. Paul asked the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Pic­tou County coun­cil for their sup­port in pass­ing a res­o­lu­tion to hon­our the Boat Har­bour Act.

“From the 1960s un­til to­day we have in­curred mil­lions of dol­lars in in­fra­struc­ture (dam­age),”

she said. “You can’t even put an amount on what we have lost when we lost Boat Har­bour. They paid us $60,000. That’s noth­ing com­pared to what we lost as a com­mu­nity.”

Paul knows the past can’t be changed, but she hopes that on Jan. 31, 2020, elders from her com­mu­nity who saw Boat Har­bour be­fore 1967 will have the chance to see the end of its use as the re­cip­i­ent of ef­flu­ent.

“We all lost some­thing, but I don’t have the same amount of loss that my elders had,” she said.

ADAM MACIN­NIS/THE NEWS

Pic­tou Land­ing First Na­tion Chief An­drea Paul spoke at a coun­cil meet­ing on Jan. 7 for the Mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Pic­tou County.

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