Millbrook Chief Bob Gloade says the provincial government has violated its agreement with Nova Scotia’s First Nations by failing to consult over the spraying of glyphosate.
In a letter to Premier Stephen McNeil and Environment Minister Margaret Miller released Thursday, Gloade said news of the government’s decision to allow Northern Pulp and three other companies to spray the herbicide VisionMaxx on more than 2,600 hectares of private land in Halifax, Colchester, Cumberland, Hants and Pictou counties came as a surprise.

“We are deeply disappointed to learn of this development through the media,” the letter reads.

“The fact that this spraying may be permitted on privately held woodland does not negate our right to be consulted. The entirety of our reserve lands are located in HRM and Colchester counties and our community continues to carry out traditional use activities in many of these areas.”

Gloade told the Chronicle Herald the province should have consulted Millbrook as per the terms of reference for a Mi’kmaq-Nova Scotia-Canada consultation process before granting approval to Northern Pulp.

The 2010 agreement between the governments and Nova Scotia’s 13 Mi’kmaq bands lays out a consultation process. Gloade said this process was not followed, and his community only learned of the spraying after it was approved late last month.

While Gloade said his community does not fish, hunt, or gather food or traditional medicines on the land that will be sprayed directly, he’s concerned about possible watershed contamination and what impact it will have on wildlife in the area.

“An aerial application of a potential human carcinogen in order to facilitate the elimination of forest diversity in favour of one single industry — pulpwood — seems shortsighted and not in the best interests of all Nova Scotians,” Gloade said.

Gloade wants government to meet with him and council before any further application of glyphosate in the area takes place. He said he has unanswered questions about the Department of Environment’s decision to approve the application of glyphosate, including what evidence the assessment was based on, how the government and the companies in question plan to mitigate environmental and health risks, and why First Nations communities in surrounding areas were not consulted.

While he hopes the government will halt spraying in order to discuss the issue, Gloade said Millbrook is looking at what legal avenues it has if there is a refusal to co-operate.

Gloade said he is not necessarily against the application of glyphosate at this time, but feels failing to consult Millbrook was a major misstep on the part of government.

“I don’t have enough information on what the impact is, so that’s what I’m trying to determine,” he said.

Nova Scotia Environment’s decision to allow the application of glyphosate on large areas of woodland has been met with controversy by opposition members, environmental groups and the public.

Though glyphosate — the same chemical found in Monsanto’s popular weed killer Roundup — has been banned in several countries and deemed a carcinogen by the World Health Organization, it is approved for a wide variety of commercial applications by Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency. In Nova Scotia, those seeking to use pesticides must advertise their intent to do so and then obtain a permit from the provincial government.

The province routinely approves the commercial application of glyphosate in woodlands to kill hardwood saplings that compete with young coniferous trees.

An emailed statement from the provincial Office of Aboriginal Affairs said the government believes glyphosate is safe, a stance echoed by chief public health officer Dr. Robert Strang.

“Health Canada regulates the use of this product and it has been used in Canada since the 1980s,” the statement reads. “Health Canada looks at the impact of this product on animals and other plant life during its review and before the product is registered as safe to use.”