Pictou Landing First Nation is counting down the days until Northern Pulp Mill can no longer dump toxins into Boat Harbour.
That’s when the harbour will be re-named its original name – A’se’k – which means ‘the other room’,” said Chief Andrea Paul.
The toxins released in the water by the Northern Pulp Mill killed fish and affected the culture and economy of the Nova Scotia community.
“You know to live in an area where we are surrounded by water and to not have the same freedoms that our people did 52 years ago,” said Paul.
Tracey Denny said people had to move away.
“Once Boat Harbour came into effect and the effluent started coming over they just lost everything, and community members left the reserve because they felt there was even nothing more to stay,” said Denny.
“And the only time they came back was in coffins.”
A memorial wall with the names and photos of people who did not live to see this day are posted on the wall at the back of the school’s gym.
“We have been going to the cemetery and we wrote down all community members who were living before 1967 which is when the treatment facility opened and who passed afterwards,” said Denny.
“And the whole point is that they are going to be here with us in spirit.”
Elders say they remember life before and after the harbour was polluted.
Mary Nichols says her family lost their culture, their home, and they were displaced.
“When our land got polluted, they just didn’t pollute the land; we we lost our way of life. I grew up in a time, I learned from my mom and after Boat Harbour happened, I couldn’t do the stuff she taught me,” she said.
The community fought for years to stop Northern Pulp from dumping.
Paul said she is confident the facility will finally be closed.
“People are looking after the next seven generations,” said Paul. “They are making sure that all of this is protected and we are the rights holder – we are not a stakeholder – we are a rights holder.”
Northern Pulp has said it needs more time to prepare for the closure.
But Premier Stephen McNeil said there will be no extension.
“The deadline is the deadline, it’s January 31st of 2020,” he said.
“We gave them five years.”
McNeil said if the mill refuses to stop dumping, the province will shut them down.
“We will be shutting off the pipe, so we have the ability to close off that. They just won’t be putting it into Boat Harbour,” McNeil said.
Northern Pulp proposed to dump its waste into the Northumberland Strait.
That immediately drew protests on land and sea.
The company said it has not yet found an alternative treatment facility.