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LETTER: Northern Pulp’s actions speak louder than words

To the editor

At a Jan. 31 press conference, Northern Pulp spokesperson Kathy Cloutier stated the pulp mill and Pictou Landing First Nation “have the same goal… to see Boat Harbour returned to its natural state. We just need more time.”

This statement is astounding to anyone familiar with the situation. Only a few months ago, Northern Pulp promised they would respect the deadline of Jan. 31, 2020 to close Boat Harbour for effluent treatment, as legislated in the 2015 Boat Harbour Act. Now, the company wants a one-year extension. That timeline is based on a shaky assumption — that the company will sail through a provincial environmental assessment with no hitches and that the Federal Government will not assume responsibility for the Environmental Assessment. That’s a risky bet, as more than 5,000 people have already requested a Federal environmental assessment for this project.

The goal of Pictou Landing First Nation is to have the Boat Harbour Act honoured, to end the devastation the community has lived with for 43 years. That means closing Boat Harbour on Jan. 31, 2020. “That day is sacred,” said Chief Andrea Paul at a community countdown celebration on Jan. 31. But Northern Pulp says no, we want two years. And if all does not go smoothly, it could be much longer than that. That does not sound like the same goal to me.

Next, we have Northern Pulp’s goal to pipe treated effluent into the Northumberland Strait. The company’s slogan has been No pipe = No mill. Pictou Landing First Nation, along with fishermen from three provinces, supported by thousands of community members, want No Pipe in the Strait. That doesn’t sound like the same goal either.

Finally, Northern Pulp says they will meet federal regulations. The company conveniently omits the fact that a recent federal study found that 70 per cent of Canadian mills which meet current regulations are harming fish or fish habitat. Pictou Landing First Nation and fishermen say the risks of discharging treated pulp effluent into the rich fishing grounds of the Northumberland Strait are too great. Their goal is to ensure no harm to fish or fish habitat, in the short or long term. Again, not the same goal. 

Actions speak loader than words. Cloutier’s sugary promises of shared goals and new legacies do not fit well with Northern Pulp’s decision to hold a press conference at the same time as Pictou Landing First Nation’s well publicized Countdown Celebration. Cloutier’s statement that the company believes they will get an extension, in spite of the clear, repeated wishes of PLFN for closure of Boat Harbour on schedule, speaks volumes about how little respect this company has for the community and its wishes, and how different their goals are.

I stand with Pictou Landing First Nation. No extension; 53 years is more than long enough.

Barb Harris,

River John

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