Christian Francis and Haley Bernard, two students who grew up on the Pictou Landing First Nation, present their film “A’se’k” at the Michael Wayne Memorial Gym Friday. The film, produced under the guidance of Barry Bernard of Ni’newey Production, tells the story of Boat Harbour through the voices of elders and community members. JOHN BRANNEN – THE NEWS
PICTOU LANDING – Sarah Francis remembers when people would swim and fish in Boat Harbour.
“It used to be so beautiful,” the Pictou Landing First Nations elder recalled. “My people were always enjoying the pureness of the waters and lands.”
These are just distant memories now.
In 1967, Scott Paper – now Northern Pulp Nova Scotia Corp – began discharging industrial effluent into Boat Harbour, irreparably changing the environment and way of life for the First Nations community.
Francis’s is one of the many voices heard in a new educational film about Boat Harbour that premiered at Michael Wayne Memorial Gym in Pictou Landing Friday.
It was created by Christian Francis and Haley Bernard, two students who grew up in Pictou Landing, under the guidance of Barry Bernard of Ni’newey Production. By combining their backgrounds in audio production and Mi’kmaq studies, Francis and Bernard documented the demise of Boat Harbour.
The film’s title, “A’se’k,” is the Mi’kmaq word for the phrase “the other room.”
“The name was chosen because they treated it as an extension of their own home,” said Francis. “It was a large part of their everyday life.”
The pair started the project in May with the blessing of chief Andrea Paul, who recommended they collect stories from elders. After obtaining a grant from all the Mi’kmaq chiefs in Nova Scotia, the pair were on their own to create a film.
“The interviews were interesting,” said Haley Bernard. “But unfortunately, many were sad as well. ”
At a length of 18 minutes, it is a succinct look at the impact of the effluent ponds on the environment and the culture of the community, about which the young people were less aware.
“We don’t feel the pain as much as our elders do,” she said. “We’ve never known how nice Boat Harbour was.”
Carl Thomas, one of those interviewed for the film, said the water at Boat Harbour was so clear you could see to the bottom, no matter how deep it was.
“[Scott Paper] fooled us,” Thomas stated. “They told us that it would not be polluted and ever since they established this deal on Boat Harbour, within days the water turned black.”
The Pictou Landing First Nations Native Women’s Group, formed in 2010, is made up of youth, mothers and grandmothers concerned about Boat Harbour.
“When we did the talking circle it was so powerful,” Paul noted during an interview for the film. “You hear about the hurt, fear and loss of not just water, but economic, spiritual, and a loss of resources.”
Producer Barry Bernard said the Boat Harbour story is one that shouldn’t be forgotten.
“This is a natural disaster that has no end in sight,” he said. “This film will be sent to all the schools in Nova Scotia as an educational tool.”
He was struck by a comment in the film that suggested the best solution for the community would be to move away for 500 years and then see if Boat Harbour has been restored.
The video will be posted to the Pictou Landing First Nations and Cape Breton University website.
While elder Francis doesn’t see the restoration of Boat Harbour happening in her lifetime, she hopes it will happen for the next generation.
“The youth will find a solution to this,” she said. “I hope they can repair it. All we can do is hope.”
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