PICTOU – Signed, sealed and delivered.
If the intent of the #No Pipe Land and Sea Rally in Pictou Friday was to send a message to government and Northern Pulp that people will not tolerate a treated effluent pipe going into the Northumberland Strait than organizers have realized their goal.
“We are strong, we are united and we are stubborn,” said Ronnie Heighton, president of the Northumberland Fishermen’s Union. “We don’t like to be bullied, we don’t like to be lied to and treated like our knowledge doesn’t matter.”
Thousands of people on the water and marching in the streets took part in the two hour #No Pipe Land and Sea Rally that organizers hope will send a message to the federal government that it needs to step in and conduct its own assessment rather than leaving it in the hands of the provincial government.
The province says Boat Harbour must be closed by 2020 and a new treatment system for the mill must be in place, which led to plans by the company to pump treated effluent to the strait. The province has agreed that a 30-day class one environmental assessment is the right way to proceed once Northern Pulp files its plans for its new treatment plant and pipe, but fishermen and their supporters say a more rigorous environmental study is needed by the federal government.
In order for the federal government to become involved, organizers say there must be a solid expression of public concern so fishermen and support groups such as Friends of the Northumberland and the First Nations community have hosted local rallies in the past as well as encourage everyone to write their own letters of the concern.
Friday’s rally drew national media attention and started with boats coming from Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick joining Nova Scotia fishermen at the mouth of Pictou Harbour.
Boats could be seen coming in all directions as they gathered at noon and the chatter over the radio was steady with communication about the rally itself or chants of “No Pipe”.
At one point, fishermen took to their mics and reported where they were coming from so local fishermen knew they had support outside their zone. When they entered the harbour, led by boats from Pictou Landing First Nations, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, they circled close to the shoreline of Northern Pulp that acted as a backdrop to the rally.
The fishermen were joined on the waters by people in kayaks and canoes and cheered on as people lined the banks of the harbour.
Other participants came by car, bus and foot to march with land supporters through the streets as they waved placards and shouted, “No Pipe, No Way” and other chants in their 10-minute walk to the waterfront.
It was evident from early on that the day was going to be large, especially when a bus pulled off the local ferry and into parking lot where people were gathering to march.
“We rolled in from P.E.I.,” said Mary Moore-Phillips from Lennox Island First Nations. “There are cars and trucks and a boat coming from Prince Edward Island. We are all here for a good cause to save our waters.”
She said a boat of supporters left Lennox Island at 3 a.m. so it would be in Pictou for the noon start time while their chief would be leading the way with other First Nations leaders from across the Maritimes.
Pictou Landing First Nations Chief Andrea Paul teared up when she looked out over the crowd gather at the waterfront and the boats in Pictou Harbour.
“We have been fighting Boat Harbour, the battle with Northern Pulp, the battle with the province for many years. Many, many years we have been putting ourselves out there. Today I need to acknowledge all of my leaders in the past and present who have guided us through all of this. “
Nicole MacKenzie, who is a member of Friends of the Northumberland which organized the rally with local fishermen, said she was pumped up by the amount of people who showed up to support the #No Pipe cause.
“I feel like the Grinch,” she said. “My heart has grown three times in size. It is great to see so many people come out.”
Many of the rally participants, who ranged in age from infant to elderly, said they took that day off work to attend because they are concerned about future of their natural resources.
Anne Marie Dalton, who is on the board of the Ecology Action Centre, said she is a believer in science, but she has concerns about his plan.
“I am concerned about the effluent they are putting into the Northumberland Strait,” she said. “There is a lot detail, but there is concern about nature of the water, the size of it (pipe), the amount of effluent going into it plus the history of the mill is such it is very difficult to trust.”
Tom MacDonald of Mount William said he was attending the rally in support of the No Pipe cause because he has land on Pictou Island that he wants to enjoy for years to come.
“I didn’t like the first plan. I am old enough to be around when they built Boat Harbour and I still don’t like sewer in the water. That is basically what it is.”
- Watch online Friday for #No Pipe rally coverage
- Northern Pulp must find new route for treated effluent pipe
- "No pipe" protest forging new alliances along Northumberland Strait
- Northumberland Strait fishermen not willing to gamble on pipe
- Northern Pulp employees putting their faith in science and company owners
- Pictou County residents and business owners share common concerns about proposed effluent pipe