"Chief Raymond Francis"
1931 - 2008

For a brief history of Raymondís accomplishment Iíll use a short quote from the 2006 "First Nations History - We Were Not the Savages - Third Edition", starting on page 240. The full text, which I cannot use because of publisher restrictions, is far more enlightening.

"This is a story of a gross neglect of duty by Indian Affairs that cost the Canada over $35 million to settle.

By far the worst instance of improper use of Section 35 of the Indian Act in this province, and perhaps in Canada, is the case of the Nova Scotia government acquiring riparian rights to Boat Harbour from the Pictou Landing Band. In the early 1960s Nova Scotia set out to entice Scott Paper Company to locate a pulp mill in Pictou County. The company agreed and the site selected was Abercrombie. The agreement required the province to assume responsibility for the disposal of industrial and chemical wastes from the mill. For this purpose the province selected Boat Harbour, adjacent to the Pictou Landing Indian Reserve...

Within months after the first effluent began to spill into the Harbour, Raymond Francis, outraged by the deceit and resulting mess, began an epic fight to secure justice. For almost fifteen years he, as Chief of the Band, and acting on the advice of the Department of Indian Affairs, the Union of Nova Scotia Indians, and others, pursued a legal route to gain relief from Nova Scotia and Scott Paper Company which led nowhere. Finally, very frustrated with the lack of progress, he visited me in Halifax at the district office in 1981 to talk about the problem. This was shortly after I had been appointed by DIAND as District Superintendent of Lands, Revenues and Trusts for Nova Scotia.

I was appalled by the story he told of the deceit and maliciousness by which the Band had been led down the garden path by the Department. When he left, I got out the files and reviewed the matter, becoming suitably enraged by the treachery. However, knowing the Department's reputation, the racist disregard for the Band's rights that the files revealed shocked but didn't overly surprise me. At our next meeting I advised Raymond that the reason the Band had had no success to date in finding relief was because it was going after the wrong party. My advice to him was that the Band should set aside thoughts of legal action against Nova Scotia and Scott and instead hire an independent attorney to begin proceedings against the federal Crown.

In the meantime, other officials of the Department had convinced the Band Council to join with the Department in a joint legal action against the province. I recognized this ploy as a deliberate attempt to focus the Band Council's attention away from the real culprit, the Department. In playing out what proved to be a charade, with the Band Council's consent, the Department hired a lawyer who supposedly was to report jointly and equally to both. Through all this I continued to caution the Council that they were entering into a no-win situation that would not produce a long-term solution.

Although the Band did not want to break off its "cooperative relationship" with the Department, through my persistence it agreed to seek independent legal counsel. At my recommendation, lawyer EA. Tony Ross was given access to pertinent documents and asked for his assessment. Ross concurred that the real culprit was the federal Crown and advised the Band Council accordingly. However, even with this legal opinion in hand, the council was still reluctant to break off the "partner relationship" with Indian Affairs.

This changed very quickly in early 1983 when a Department of Indian Affairs official wrote a memo to "partnership" lawyer Danny Campbell advising him that he should not make available to the Band Council all the information connected with the case. With a copy of this memo in hand, I had no further problem persuading the Band Council to go after the federal Crown for redress. The Band employed Ross to litigate the case on their behalf. In 1986, under the guidance of their new Chief, Roderick Francis, the Band filed a notice of action against the Crown at the Federal Court in Halifax. The battle was on!" Photo 1998

Click the Link to read a Halifax Herald column I wrote honouring Raymond: October 2, 1998

Halifax Herald

No fix yet for Boat Harbour

Pictou Landing native band threatens legal action against province, pulp mill over failure to clean up polluted lagoon


Fri. Jul 3 - 4:46 AM

The Abercrombie Point pulp mill is still pumping effluent into Boat Harbour. (File)

The provinceís promise to divert effluent from an Abercrombie Point pulp mill and clean up the Boat Harbour treatment lagoon canít be kept.

And that means more negotiations and more delays for the people who have had to put up with the stinky, toxic harbour for over 40 years, especially the Miíkmaq people of Pictou Landing.

"A pipeline was supposed to take the effluent away from the Boat Harbour lagoon, but it wouldnít work, and in 2008, the province promised to move the treatment plant away from the community," said Brian Hebert, a negotiator for the Pictou Landing band.

The pipeline would have opened up the lagoon to Northumberland Strait tidal action.

"Actually, since the early 1990s, the province made the statement it would clean up Boat Harbour."

The community signed a memorandum of understanding with Kimberley-Clark, which owned the mill in 2001, agreeing to let the treatment plant operate there until 2030 if the pipeline diverted the effluent out to sea and if Boat Harbour was cleaned up.

By 2005, engineers told the province the cleanup of Boat Harbour couldnít go ahead while the pulp mill was operating. Nonetheless, in 2006, the Pictou Landing band signed an extension to the memorandum with Neenah Paper, the company that then owned the pulp mill, and a new cleanup date was set for 2008.

By 2008, Northern Pulp Nova Scotia Corp. owned the mill and the provincial licence it had for discharging waste into the ponds expired. Since then, the companyís licence has been granted on a month-to-month basis.

"The First Nation put the province and the mill on notice that as of July 1, they will be in a position to take legal action," said Mr. Hebert. "The province gave the mill a licence to pour effluent into the harbour. The province could terminate that licence on a 30-day notice, but itís unlikely the province would."

While Mr. Hebert said the band, province and the millís owner will continue to talk and negotiate, the community wants some guarantees, such as significant penalties if future deadlines arenít met.

Cathy MacIsaac, a Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Department spokeswoman, said Thursday the province is working toward "a long-term fix and the best way to clean up Boat Harbour."

( mmacintyre@herald.ca)