The Dominion: Paper mill takes toll on First Nation in Nova Scotia

"If you thought that the Canadian pulp and paper industry was environmentally irresponsible, you were right. But the new players on the clear-cut block make them look like a bunch of patchouli-scented tree-huggers. This is the story of how Canada hopped into bed with one of Asia's worst environmental criminals, and how for the Pictou Landing Indian Band in Nova Scotia, it's just one more proverbial slap in the face.

In Nova Scotia, the Pictou mill isn't just a taxpayer-subsidized employer to 230 mill workers, it's the home of a very dirty secret.

Opened in 1966, it is infamous for its continued use of once-idyllic Boat Harbour, a natural lagoon that is located on Pictou Landing Indian Band reserve lands, as an effluent dumping grounds. As documented by the King's College Investigative Journalist Team in 2009, an estimated 1,000,000,000,000 litres of liquid pulp mill waste has poured into Boat Harbour since then, causing untold environmental destruction.

Indeed, an indemnity agreement was signed in 1995 between Scott Maritimes, original owners of the mill, and the provincial government. The agreement guarantees that the Nova Scotia government (actually, Nova Scotia taxpayers) will swallow the costs of cleaning up Boat Harbour. The agreement is valid in transfers of mill ownership. The current NDP provincial government has no alternative plan on what to do with the mill waste, and the Pictou Landing Band is currently in a two-year-and-counting legal battle with the province to see Boat Harbour closed.

Boat Harbour is now a foul-smelling, foam-encrusted, 142-acre wasteland, largely devoid of life. Don Breen, one of the witnesses to the 1995 indemnity, makes no mention of any of the $28 million going to clean up the Boat Harbour disaster that he personally has helped whoever owns the Pictou mill wash their hands of.

In an interview with The Dominion, Kevin Christmas, Indigenous Mi'gmaw, band advisor to Pictou Landing and long-time activist against the pollution of Boat Harbour, notes that effluent-capture technology has existed for years, and that the dire straits of the Pictou Landing Band could have been avoided from the start."

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Pulp Dreams (The Dominion 7/6)

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