Pictou Landing First Nation and two other conservation groups will be splitting a $225,000 fine served to Northern Pulp on Wednesday for a 2014 effluent spill in Boat Harbour.
In January, Northern Pulp pleaded guilty to a charge under the Federal Fisheries Act of illegally dumping a harmful substance (mainly pulp and paper effluent) into water frequented by fish.
Northern Pulp, a pulp-and-paper mill located in Abercrombie, will now be splitting their payment between Pictou Landing First Nation, The Mi’kmaq Conservation Group in Pictou County and Pictou County Rivers Association. Each group will receive $75,000.
“The first element of truth and reconciliation is truth,” wrote Provincial Court Judge Del Atwood in the decision. “The undeniable truth is that the experience of the Pictou Landing First Nation has been one of subjugation and suppression under the Canadian federation.”
Atwood refused to render a sentence back in January to ensure Pictou Landing First Nation was consulted about the effect the spill had on the band.
In a statement submitted to the courts by Chief Andrea Paul, she writes about the social, psychological and cultural impact the spill had on the members of her community. She writes that the anger and fear the spill caused was rooted in a decades-long “environmental degradation” of their territory.
In Atwood’s decision, the judge writes that the impact of the pulp mill on the well-being of Pictou Landing First Nation is “so conspicuous and notorious as to be beyond dispute.”
The charge stemmed from a rupture of a 3.6-kilometre length of pipeline that was carrying effluent from the mill at Abercrombie Point to its treatment facility adjacent to the First Nation.
The province’s Environment Department estimated over 4.5 million litres of untreated waste poured into a wetland, then into the harbour. Environment Canada laid the charge aginst the mill because the ocean falls under federal jurisdiction.
The East River and Pictou Harbour is known as a highly productive fish habitat that supports a wide variety of species, including oysters, clams and Atlantic salmon.
Northern Pulp has until June 30 to pay the fine.