Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil held a media conference this morning to announce he will not extend the Boat Harbour Act’s deadline of January 31, 2020. Even though the legislation was passed in 2015, Northern Pulp requested an extension of the Act because the company still does not have an alternate plan in place to deal with effluent from the mill. Company representatives claim they will need to close the mill without an extension.
Members of Pictou Landing First Nation watch Premier McNeil’s announcement this morning. From Pictou Landing First Nation’s Facebook page
In a show of bold leadership, the Premier chose to be on the right side of history today in keeping his government’s promise to end the legacy of environmental racism at Pictou Landing First Nation. Boat Harbour, a marine estuary located in Pictou Landing First Nation’s “backyard,” has been the effluent treatment site for pulp and paper sludge since 1967. The Mi’kmaw community has been working with successive provincial governments to stop Boat Harbour because of major health issues in the community, their loss of culture and traditions, and their fundamental desire to protect the environment.
As Premier McNeil stated in today’s announcement, “The company has had five years and a number of opportunities to deal with Boat Harbour and at this point and is not even close. The company has put us all in a very difficult position… The Boat Harbour Act will be enforced as of January 31, 2020... Let me be clear, there will be no extension.”
Pictou Landing First Nation, along with fishers, environmental groups and allies, have been fighting to ensure the deadline for the Boat Harbour Act remains. The Council of Canadians has been standing in solidarity with Pictou Landing First Nation. On Wednesday, our North Shore chapter held a letter-writing campaign, members of the North Shore chapter attended the rally at Pictou Landing yesterday, and there is an article in our recently-released issue of Canadian Perspectives.
Friends of the Northumberland Strait billboard in Halifax/K’jipuktuk, 2019.
Northern Pulp has threatened to close the mill if an extension to the Boat Harbour Act deadline is not granted. Mill workers, their union, woodlot owners and others have been vocal supporters of the extension request.
In relation to the mill workers and those involved in the Nova Scotia forestry sector, the Premier announced a $50 million transition fund, stating the workers impacted are a "top priority" and the fund will focus on retraining and education. He stated, “my hope is that people will see this as an opportunity to transition to a new forest sector in the province.”
As the Council of Canadians has been exposing, corporate capture is a real issue across this land, but this is one example where a government has committed to doing what is in the public interest - this after decades and successive governments doing what the owners of the pulp mill wanted. The trend of governments feeling forced to do what corporations demand can be bucked, as Premier McNeil is doing with Northern Pulp and the Boat Harbour Act.
Other news articles from today’s announcement:
- the Canadian Press (posted by CTV)
- The Chronicle Herald, which includes full video of the announcement (starts at 12:30)
- Watch PLFN Chief Andrea Paul’s interview on CTV in advance of the announcement here
For more information about this campaign:
- Friends of the Northumberland Strait
- Pictou Landing First Nation, which includes a countdown clock to January 31 (41 days!)
- more Council of Canadians blogs
Statement from Chief and Council, Thank you to our supporters.
Premier Stephen McNeil had a very difficult decision to make today, a decision that will affect many people in our region, but we feel he made the correct decision. We are grateful that he has decided to put an end to the pollution, and providing an opportunity for us to heal.
We hope the Province of Nova Scotia will work to help those who have been displaced, and there is a plan to help with the transition for those in the forestry industry.
Cleaning up Boat Harbour is all our people have ever wanted and Premier Stephen MacNeil kept his promise and on behalf of my community we are thankful.