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Passing the Bucks

Draft agreement offers Pictou Landing Band $3 million to put Boat Harbour lawsuit on ice

by Miles Howe

The Pictou mill has been dumping effluent waste into Boat Harbour for the past 45 years.
The Pictou mill has been dumping effluent waste into Boat Harbour for the past 45 years.

The provincial government has drafted an offer of $3 million to the Pictou Landing First Nation (PLFN) in return for the Band postponing their lawsuit against the province for at least two years, according to documents obtained by the Halifax Media Co-op. The draft offer stems from a 2010 PLFN lawsuit against the province of Nova Scotia, launched due to the province's failure to clean up Boat Harbour.

An estimated 1,000,000,000 litres of effluent from the Abercrombie Pulp and Paper Mill – currently owned by Northern Pulp -- have flowed into Boat Harbour, and the surrounding area since 1966, according to a 2009 King's College report, causing untold environmental and health damage. The area has described as “otherworldly” by Green Party leader Elizabeth May, for its ongoing pollution.

The draft “Capacity Building Agreement” between the province of Nova Scotia and the Pictou Landing Indian Band notes that the provincial government has agreed to pay $3 million dollars to the band, ostensibly for “Capacity Building” - not for the clean-up of Boat Harbour, and not for paying for the Band's steadily increasing legal fees. The document also notes that the money hinges on the band not attempting in any way to halt the on-going effluent dumping and preventing its members from doing the same. As noted:

Pictou Landing will not, and will take all reasonable actions to ensure that the Members do not, support or engage in any action that might frustrate, delay or stop the Operation, Northern, or its affiliates and the successors...”

The document states that the $3 million is not:

"...to be interpreted or construed as an admission or recognition by Nova Scotia or Canada or Northern of the existence or extent of any Rights, of any infringement of Rights by Nova Scotia, Canada, (or) Northern...in relation to Pictou's Landing's Rights.

A second internal band document obtained by HMC notes that the PLFN is “facing a financial crisis”, and that Indian and Northern Affairs Canada itself acknowledges that the Band is underfunded. The document notes that the PLFN's lawsuit cannot continue, due to lack of funding, and that there have been no outside offers of assistance to continue the legal battle. The $3 million is specifically not to be used to fund the lawsuit. The second document notes that:

...There is no funding available in the current budget to fund a law suit. INAC (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada) has refused to provide funding for the lawsuit. The Federal government has refused to take on the lawsuit using its own lawyers. Nova Scotia Legal Aid has refused to fund the lawsuit. Private lenders have refused to fund the lawsuit.”

If this capacity building agreement is accepted by the Band, $3 million will have bought their silence for the next 2 years, and dumping looks set to continue. If the agreement is rejected, according to the second document, the lawsuit has drained the Band's coffers, and unless a legal champion for the cause can be found, dumping looks like it will continue anyway.

Such news rings dire for not only the PLFN, where the effects of living next door to a 45 year old, 140+ acre, effluent-dumping site, are the most pronounced, but also for the rest of Pictou County.

According to the Pictou County Health Authority's “Health Status Profile” of 2008, life expectancy is lower than in the rest of Nova Scotia. Fewer people now report 'excellent', or 'very good', health than in studies conducted in 2003 and 2005. Heart disease and diabetes are rising, and mortality rates due to respiratory diseases are higher than the rest of Nova Scotia. Pictou residents also have to contend with the emissions of a tire plant, a coal plant, and a now-defunct steel works, but it is the mill that bears the brunt of the locals' blame for the health and environmental issues the community struggles with.

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Topics: Environment
631 words


What kind of documents was it

What kind of documents was it that the media coop obtained?  The quotes from the documents read very sloppily.  Were these memos from a meeting or something?

Great job media coop!  Great job Miles!

This is pretty standard.

This is pretty standard. Check with any lawyer. Not so much a 'political' decision as a legal one.

Quotes WORK

Regardless of how sloppy or unprofessional a quote is.. ITS A QUOTE, that quote gave the article the flavour and some local colour. So what if it was disjointed, it was said with some passion and authenticity, in the heat of the moment. Let's not whitewash the news.. that end quote that was removed was classic. 


Don't worry

I removed the end quote, but we will examine the situation in Pictou County in a more in-depth, editorial-style, article which will be up in two days. There will be more classic quotes, including the zinger which no longer appears in this article. Not whitewashing, just taking it one issue at a time.

As for what kinds of documents were obtained, both were related to a $3 million "capacity building agreement", as was mentioned.


While it may delay the

While it may delay the lawsuit for a few years, perhaps it's best to try and resolve this in the meantime. Perhaps through mediation.

Chronicle Herald Plunders HMC Story.

Did you notice that the Chronicle Herald stole the story about the $3 million hush money, posted it as their own, and put a corporate media spin on it?

Yep, after Pal Bou, another HMC reporter, emailed Chronically Horrid editor Dan Leger, to alert him to the story, Leger went out, and through a reporter got a capacity building agreement of his own through his government connections.

The Horrid then put the spin on it that the Band had come looking for the money, which is an idea not found anywhere within the document. In a classic, "Let's make the natives look bad" move, the Horrid's article attempts to pit the Pictou Landing Band against non-Native Pictou Landing locals, who simply can't understand why the Natives would give up the lawsuit for cash, after they worked so hard to get it going. This plays into an already-existing split, as Natives have received past compensation for living next to a toxic mess, while non-Natives have not.

The Horrid's article came out two days after our own, and they don't even reference the fact that we have a second document that talks about the fact that the Band is out of money to continue to lawsuit. The Horrid considers the HMC too small to even note. They merely say "Sources say..."

I would urge all readers not to fall into the corporate media spin machine, and not to scapgoat the Pictou Landing First Nation to the detriment of the issue. The Band did not go looking for the $3 million, the issue is not settled, and internal consultation within the Band is ongoing. Now is not the time to gaze in wonder at the PLFN, as the Horrid would have us do, and wonder why they sold-out. There is no sell out. Only pollution on a massive scale, and a Band that may well have no more money left to continue the legal battle. The Horrid does not even mention that the only way the PLFN could get the provincial government to make good on their promises of shutting down Boat Harbour is by taking them to court. Shame! Cancel your subscriptions!

What we see is that corporate media and the government's position is business as usual. Do not bite the hook that is offered. The kind and benefactory government offers the PLFN $3 million because it notices it needs capacity building? Garbage. The second document notes that Indian and Nothern Affairs Canada is aware that the band is underfunded, and that the provincial money is contingent upon stopping the lawsuit for at least 2 years, which puts the issue of stopping Boat Harbour past the next election, which works handily for this government.

If the band is known to be underfunded, why not give them $3 million and shut down Boat Harbour? Why one and not the other? Why only give them $3 million provided they live next to a terrible dump? As though $3 million will take the smell away, or take the cancer victims back, or make the water clean again. Where is the lawyer who will take this case on?

Hi, Dan Leger here. I don't

Hi, Dan Leger here. I don't know how my name got dragged into this, but I can tell you I did not receive an email, or at least didn't notice one, from anyone named Pal Bou. I had never heard of Pal Bou and until today, had not heard of Miles Howe or read his piece on Boat Harbour. I did NOT use government contacts to obtain any documents about Boat Harbour, nor did I ask any member of the Herald staff to do so. These allegations are entirely false, a flight of fancy. What is true is that Mr. Howe did not attempt to contact me to verify anything in the above post.

  I do recall our assignment editor mentioning a Media Co-op story and saying that Michael Gorman in our Truro bureau had been asked to make some inquiries to try and verify it. Gorman came up with a different  conclusions based on his honest journalism. There's no conspiracy here, no plot and certainly no corporatist spin or defamation of any First Nation. There was never any attempt to pit any community against any other community. You had a story, we had a story, end of story.

  I'd also point out that the Herald is a locally-owned and operated business, employing more than 300 Nova Scotians. Our mission is local news. We are one of the smallest media companies in Canada and hardly the poster boy for corporate native bashing. Neither is the Dexter government known for overtly anti-native policies, as suggested in the Howe story.

  Like any respectable newspaper, we fact-check our material and sometimes our conclusions will be different from those of other media. Fact-checking and follow-up are standard journalistic practices. We did not steal any story and Howe owes Mike Gorman and the Herald an apology for suggesting that we did.

  Good luck to the co-op and I wish it well in its journalistic endeavours. Competition is healthy. Mr. Howe's childish and self-aggrandizing diatribe is anything but.


More lies

You got a tweet from Pal Bou, and we can verify that, on Thursday afternoon, after our article came out. What you did or did not notice is quite a fanciful convenience for you. Gorman was asked to verify our story, did not mention it, and obtained his copy of the draft document from where? Gorman also choses to slight us by noting "Sources say..." when the sources for your whole piece was us. You stole our piece, and through so-called honest journalism, didn't even mention it. And again, if you don't have an agenda, then I ask you, who asked that the lawsuit be taken off the table in exchange for a $3 million payoff that the band and INAC, admit that they need? Was it the band, or was it the province? We both know the answer, you're just too corporate to mention it.

And what of your precious Horrid? You employ 300 people, but you give freelancers an offer they can't accept, consider that Nova Scotians are not interested in international affairs, and hide behind your small size when confronted. You had a story, it was our story re-spun. End of story.

You'll get no appology from me, Dan, and please, you can call me Miles. Competition is indeed healthy. Thieving another new's sources story, and not mentioning where it came from  is low and base, but to be expected from the Horrid. Leger owes me, and the Halifax Media Coop, an appology.

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