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Pictou Landing First Nation battles environmental racism

Valerie Lannon

June 19, 2014

For 47 years, the Northern Pulp Mill has been dumping its untreated effluent into nearby Boat Harbour, in Mi’kma’Ki Territory, Nova Scotia. The toxic industrial waste travels from the mill through a pipeline that was built over traditional burial grounds of the Pictou Landing people, and under traditional fishing grounds. 
According to Idle No More/Defenders of the Land campaigner Clayton Thomas-Muller, "The Northern Pulp Mill has been operating on provincial subsidy for some time and the massive contamination of boat harbour continues uninterrupted because of a short sighted agreement the province of Nova Scotia entered intoduring the by gone era of the boom of Nova Scotia’s logging sector of which they agreed to the liability of clean up in the event of mill closure. The legacy of this agreement by the province along with years of the pulp and paper mill duping billions of litres of untreated effluent into boat harbour has carried devastating ecological and human health costs burdened by the local Pictou Landing First Nations members who experience the 3rd highest cancer rates per capita in all of Canada’s hundred plus heath districts. This is one of the most blatant examples of environmental racism in Canada to date."
While documenting this pollution, Pictou Landing member Jonathan Beadle discovered on June 9, 2014, that the pipeline was not operating and that there had been a major spill on the ground. He stated, “The spill had to have been going on for some time. The clean up for the area is going to be incredibly expensive.”
The Nation’s Chief Andrea Paul contacted the provincial government to ask how the clean up would get done, but received no response. As a result, on June 11, the Chief and Council ordered a community blockade, to guarantee that clean up efforts would not disturb the burial site. The mill then closed.
A few days later, the Chief reported that a tentative agreement had been reached with the province for the clean-up. The Chief asked for community approval of the agreement; however, some members do not believe they have enough information about the agreement to make an informed decision. 
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