PICTOU LANDING — It was an historic time for Pictou Landing First Nation last week.
Members of the community utilized the sunny afternoon to gather outdoors as Central Nova MP Sean Fraser formally announced $100 million in federal funding to help return Boat Harbour to its previous state as a tidal estuary.
Work started last fall then halted due to inclement winter weather and only recently resumed to start the work of remediating the lagoon system where the treatment facility has been processing effluent from the pulp mill in Abercrombie for about 50 years.
Fraser was joined during the announcement by current provincial Health Minister and former Environment Minister Randy Delorey, Chief Andrea Paul and Tracey Denny, support co-ordinator for the Boat Harbour remediation project, who emceed the event.
Fraser drew applause after sharing his opening remarks in Mi’kmaq. He also noted Boat Harbour’s “shameful history” when the community used it as a refuge during the era of residential schools for its children. This was before its lagoons were created to aerate and agitate the effluent and the mouth of Boat Harbour was blocked.
He said the remediation means the traditional activities — such as fishing, recreation and hunting — will be restored at Boat Harbour.
The funds will also pay for a bridge that will replace the causeway at the mouth of Boat Harbour, he said.
“This is a big day for the community of Pictou Landing and the entire province,” he said. “We have an opportunity to right a historic wrong.”
Delorey referred to the opportunity for First Nation residents to share in the development of skills needed to clean up Boat Harbour.
“We’re on the curve of a positive future,” he said. “So many things are going to materialize because of this.”
At times tearful over the significance of the day, Chief Paul noted the 253 days on the community’s countdown calendar before the treatment facility’s scheduled closure next January.
“I don’t want to steal the spotlight because it’s not my spotlight to steal,” she said as she gathered elders, youngsters, council members and other residents around her. “This has been a long process. I’m very excited about this announcement.”
Fraser said he has no qualms about announcements like this with a federal election looming and governing Liberals trying to win again.
“I don’t want to sit on good news when I have it,” he said.