Cheryl Denny can’t say exactly what grade it was that she turned her focus toward art, but she can say why.
“You know, I wasn’t that much into school. I’d doodle,” she said on Thursday Jan. 31 standing in front of a mural. It depicts a sunset over calm waters spanned by a narrow bridge. There’s a small boat cutting a wake through the center of the scene.
“I’ve come a long way since then.”
Enough to be asked to paint the scene behind her, one which the Pictou Landing First Nation community chose to represent the past and hoped-for future of A’se’k, the Mi'kmaq word for the once tidal estuary next to the PLFN community.
It was a lot of pressure for an artist used to painting eight-by-ten prints.
“It was scary. I was so scared of us running it. There was so much emotion put into it,” she said. “All of this stuff we’re going through with Boat Harbour, I’m so looking forward for the closure.”
The number 365 fastened with binder rings to the upper portion of Denny’s scene mark the beginning of a year-long countdown to the legislated closure date of Northern Pulp’s effluent treatment facility on Jan. 31, 2020.
The painting, with its countdown callendar, are on display just outside the PLFN community gymnasium. Nearly 250 people were gathered inside that gym on Thursday to show their determination that the Boat Harbour Act be upheld. Many were wearing red shirts with the words "A’se’k #31 January 2020" written on them.
“That end date is so sacred to us. Fifty-two years that we’ve carried this,” said Chief Andrea Paul to the crowded room. Paul’s speech presented a united front on behalf of the citizens of PLFN that the community will not accept any extensions for Boat Harbour.
“I’m not speaking as Andrea. I speak for all the people. I always say that when I come, I carry every single person from my community with me. If I could carry them all on my back, they would be on my back,” she said.
“We’re at a point where we’re going to get some closure on this.”
An hour before the Pictou Landing event was scheduled to start, Northern Pulp held a press conference in Halifax calling for a one-year extension to the 2020 deadline.
“Some will say that they have heard this before, and look where we are now,” said Northern Pulp spokesperson Kathy Cloutier, speaking at the event in Halifax and addressing past promises to cleanup Boat Harbour. “We recognize this, and relish the opportunity to be the exception rather than the rule.”
However, Premier Stephen McNeil has so far maintained that there will be no extension to the 2020 deadline under the Boat Harbour Act.
– With files from the Canadian Press