UPPER NAPPAN, N.S. – Friends of the Northumberland Strait (FONS) urged Cumberland County not to send a letter requesting the province for an extension to the Boat Harbour Act during the most recent meeting of county council.
“We’ll explain why we support Pictou Landing First Nation in expecting the closure of Boat Harbour Act on schedule on Jan. 31, 2020, and we will explain why we ask you not to support Northern Pulps request for an extension,” Jill Graham-Scanlan, president of FONS, said.
The Boat Harbour Act calls for ‘the cessation of the use of the Boat Harbour Effluent Treatment Facility for the reception and treatment of effluent from the Northern Pulp Mill by Jan. 31, 2020.’
FONS gave their presentation to council two weeks after the Cumberland County forestry industry asked the county to send a letter to the province requesting an extension to the Boat Harbour Act beyond the Jan. 31, 2020 deadline.
Cumberland County foresters say their livelihoods will be devastated if the pulp mill is closed.
Northern pulp is currently seeking environmental approval of a new effluent treatment plant that would see treated effluent pumped from a pipe extended four kilomtres into the Northumberland Strait.
FONS says pumping treated effluent into Northumberland Strait is not an option the people of Pictou County should have to live with.
Graham-Scanlan is a small business owner in the town of Pictou. She also owns her own law firm, and her husband is a fisherman.
“He fishes out of Wallace, so I have a close connection to the people here in Cumberland.”
Graham-Scanlan was joined at council by Krista Fulton and Linda Townsend.
Fulton is from a family of woodlot and sawmill owners, and her husband is a commercial fisherman.
Townsend has a cottage in Pictou County and shares a back yard with Pictou County First Nation. Her family has been land owners in the area for 70 years.
Graham-Scanlan started the presentation by pointing out the importance of the fishery is to the province of Nova Scotia, saying Nova Scotia produces $2 billion in annual seafood exports.
“18,000 people directly make a living in the fishing industry in Nova Scotia and 3,400 fishermen make a living on the Northumberland Strait.”
She said a 37 per cent of all Nova Scotia’s exports come from the fishing industry.
“I can give you all kinds of statistics about the importance of the fishery in the area, but this issue is not about industry versus industry,” Graham-Scanlan said. “It’s about doing the right thing for Pictou Landing First Nation.”
She gave a history of Boat Harbour, saying that in 1966, days after effluent started flowing from the treatment plant, that fish started to die.
“Before long the once pristine estuary was void of any life,” Graham-Scanlan said.
Since effluent started flowing, many promises to clean Boat Harbour have been made to Pictou Landing First Nation but all were broken.
She says the breaking point came in 2014 when a pipe-break saw 4.7 million litres of effluent leak onto Mi’kmaq burial grounds and into Pictou Harbour.
“Pictou County First Nations could have closed the mill then but did not for the sake of the greater community,” Graham-Scanlan said.
Because of the leak, the Boat Harbour Act was passed in 2015, giving Northern Pulp five years to close the Boat Harbour effluent treatment facility and build a new one.
Since the act was passed, Graham-Scanlon says Northern Pulp, instead of engaging residents of Pictou County, has only divided the community and, also, continue to seek delays beyond the Jan. 31, 2020 deadline.
She concluded her presentation by making three points to council.
“If you support an extension you are supporting a legacy of environmental racism to continue in Nova Scotia, you are contributing to yet another broken promise to Pictou Landing First Nations, and you are supporting continued harm to a communities health and well-being,” Graham-Scanlan said. “Pictou Landing First Nation should not pay the price of Northern Pulp not meeting the deadline.”
After the presentation, county council passed a motion to send a letter to the provincial government, but the letter does not ask for an extension to the Boat Harbour Act.
Instead, the letter points out that the Cumberland County forest industry is worth $25 to $30 million in annual revenues and employs 500 people in the county, and concludes by asking ‘the Government of Nova Scotia to support a prosperous and sustainable forest industry.”