Northern Pulp had pleaded guilty to an offence under the federal Fisheries Act for “depositing a deleterious substance into waters frequented by fish” in June, 2014. The “deleterious substance” was effluent (wastewater) from the pulp mill at Abercrombie Point owned by the company. Millions of litres of raw effluent escaped from a burst pipeline on Mi’kmaq burial grounds at Indian Cross Point and poured into the East River.
The sentencing hearing was postponed on January 21, 2016 when Judge Atwood found out that nearby Pictou Landing First Nation had not been given a chance to provide a victim impact statement to the court. The First Nation filed the statement in February and the sentencing hearing was set for today (March 23, 2016) to allow lawyers for the company a chance to review it.
Today Judge Atwood thanked Pictou Landing First Nation for the victim impact statement and imposed the agreed fine of $225,000. Fines imposed under the Fisheries Act must be directed toward fisheries habitat projects and Justice Atwood ordered that $75,000 of the fine be paid to the Mi’kmaq Conservation Group and another $75,000 to the Nova Scotia Salmon Association. He reserved decision on the final $75,000 until May 11, 2016.
Chief Andrea Paul, who was present at the sentencing hearing along with Councillor Derek Francis, welcomed the imposition of a substantial fine on Northern Pulp. While the company acted quickly to stop the spill by shutting down the mill production, the judge noted that the pipeline was old and in disrepair. Chief Paul worries that a further spill could occur as the aging pipeline was only repaired in one small section and not replaced. She looks forward to the closure of the pipeline in the near future.
Nova Scotia has enacted the Boat Harbour Act which makes it illegal for Northern Pulp to discharge wastewater to the Boat Harbour treatment facility after January 30, 2020. The treatment facility was built next to the Pictou Landing First Nation reserve in 1967 in a blatant act of environmental racism.
Pictou Landing First Nation’s victim impact statement is available here: PLFN – Victim Impact Statement 2016 02 22