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Province must consult Pictou Landing First Nation about money for Northern Pulp


In a secret agreement with Northern Pulp, the provincial government agreed to pay for part of the mill’s environmental assessment of its new effluent treatment plant. - File
Northern Pulp - File
PICTOU LANDING, N.S. —

If the province is going to give public money to Northern Pulp to help build a new treatment facility, then Pictou Landing First Nation has a legal right to be consulted according to a decision released this week.

Tuesday, Sept. 17, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal issued its decision to uphold a Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruling that says the Crown must consult with Pictou Landing First Nation which neighbours the Boat Harbour Treatment Facility if public money is given for a new effluent treatment facility.

In the written decision by Justice Joel Fichaud on behalf of the three-judge panel, he stated that Pictou Landing First Nation has the right to be consulted because in part the funding agreements have the potential to impact the likelihood of Northern Pulp will get ministerial approvals necessary to operate after Jan. 30, 2020. If that were to happen, Pictou Landing could be impacted by the contaminants.

“The Funding Agreements, along with the Province’s funding that they prescribe, constitute Crown conduct with ‘a potential for adverse impact’ on PLFN by increasing the likelihood the Mill will discharge contaminants after January 30, 2020,” he wrote.

The decision states that the Province had argued that it was “speculative” and “unfounded conjecture” to suggest that a ministerial approval might be influenced by a benefit to the province. The judges didn’t see it that way.

“The submission turns a blind eye to history,” Fichaud wrote. “For decades, the Provincial Government has vacillated this way and that, weighing economic stimulus against environmental concerns for the Mill’s discharged contaminants.”

The matter first became a court issue after Pictou Landing First Nation found out that the Province was having confidential discussions with Northern Pulp about whether the Province would provide funding for the new effluent treatment facility and asked that they be consulted. The Province refused however and Pictou Landing applied to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia for a ruling. Last fall, Justice Timothy Garbriel ruled that the Province did have a duty to consult with the First Nations community first. The Province appealed with Northern Pulp also intervening and applying to add fresh evidence. 

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