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Hundreds march in Pictou Landing in support of Northern Pulp deadline

Hundreds donned red T-shirts to the march in Pictou Landing Friday. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Dressed in red T-shirts, more than 300 people marched through Pictou Landing First Nation Friday to encourage the provincial government to honour an upcoming Northern Pulp deadline.

On Jan. 31, 2020, Northern Pulp has to close its effluent treatment facility at Boat Harbour, N.S., according to provincial legislation.

With 118 days until that deadline, Chief Andrea Paul of Pictou Landing says she wants the government to stick to its promise.

"I think this is a great opportunity for us to to remind everybody that this is a long standing battle that we've had," Paul told CBC's Information Morning. "We're very excited about the closure date."

Boat Harbour was a tidal estuary called A'se'k in the Mi'kmaw language. Mi'kmaq fished and foraged there.

This week, Northern Pulp released a focus report as the company continues to try to get approval to build a new effluent treatment facility at its Pictou County site. That report is open to public feedback until Nov. 8.

"This is a huge project and it definitely has a lot of public interest," Paul said. "People are really paying attention to what is happening."

Susan Stephen, who travelled from Tatamagouche for the march, said said her main concern is pollution "that's been going on here for 50 years."

"The proposed pipe is just dropping more pollution into the [Northumberland] Strait," she said. "It's absolutely criminal in my opinion."

After the march, elders and other community members were invited to speak. Shyanna Denny, 16, spoke on behalf of her youth council.

"We're trying to build trust and reconciliation," she said. "But we won't if they don't meet the deadline."

Closing the treatment facility is an important issue for youth because, as they get older, they come to understand more about the history of Boat Harbour, Denny said.

"We didn't realize growing up why we couldn't swim in our waters, why we couldn't fish, and realizing that really hurt," she said. "We can't use our waters the way our elders did."

The march wasn't only to push the provincial government to meet the promised deadline, but also to express hope the government does not approve Northern Pulp's proposed new effluent treatment facility.

Environment Minister Gordon Wilson will make a decision on the proposed effluent treatment plant by Dec. 17.

"At the end of the day, all we're asking for is that we want to ensure that whatever is going into the water is safe," Paul said.

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