When the government of Nova Scotia announced that the Boat Harbour Effluent Treatment Facility would close on Jan. 31, 2020, it was a huge win for the members of Pictou Landing First Nation. In 2014, a spill of untreated wastewater headed to the facility took place near a Mi’kmaq burial ground, prompting residents to set up a protest blockade that prevented the pipe from being repaired — and Nova Scotia’s largest pulp mill, the source of the effluent, from reopening.
To end the standoff, the provincial government agreed to the community’s long-standing demand to close the toxic treatment facility that had poisoned their air, land and water for more than 50 years. The resulting Boat Harbour Act promised to bring an end to what former Nova Scotia environment minister Iain Rankin called one of Canada’s worst cases of environmental racism.
But in December 2017, their sense of victory turned to dismay. To keep the Northern Pulp mill in operation, a new effluent treatment facility would be required to replace Boat Harbour. The mill announced that the new facility would pipe pre-treated effluent directly into the Northumberland Strait and the lobster fishing grounds, which are crucial to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishers. The response from the fishers, skeptical about the safety of the effluent, was immediate: “No Pipe.” The response from the mill was: “No Pipe, No Mill.”
The documentary The Mill follows both sides of the “No Pipe” debate over 18 months, from December 2017 up to the opening of the 2019 lobster season. We hear from forestry workers about the mill’s role in Nova Scotia’s economy and we meet Indigenous and non-Indigenous fishers who have decided to stand up to what they perceive as a threat to their livelihoods and way of life. They have a common bond in their love of their home and the beauty of their coastal locale, and are looking for a compromise that will allow them to create a new future for their children and community. “When people come together and support each other on issues, it’s a beautiful thing,” says Pictou Landing First Nation Chief Andrea Paul.
As its pipeline plans go through the approval process, Northern Pulp says it requires more time to close Boat Harbour — beyond the 2020 deadline — to keep its mill open. The community remains at a tense impasse as the government of Nova Scotia presides over a Gordian knot of its own making. Will it finally close and clean up the notorious Boat Harbour site, and put thousands of jobs in the forestry sector at risk? Or will the threat of the mill closing make it renege on its promise to the Pictou Landing First Nation and extend the use of Boat Harbour? And what of the controversial new pipeline?
The Mill captures a significant moment in time for the people in Pictou County — a period of lively and important dialogue. The timeline of the Boat Harbour closure and outcome of the pipe dispute may remain uncertain, but through its characters, the film illustrates a change in public awareness and shows there is more to Pictou County than its pulp mill.
Written and Directed by
David W. Craig
David W. Craig
Chief Andrea Paul
Jeff Semple *Jeff Wheaton * Andrew Terris
Neal Livingston * Darcy Fraser * Mark Hammond
Additional Sound Recordists
Visual Research & Clearances
Graphics & Web Design
Sound Design & Mix
Assistant Online Editor
Baker Tilly Nova Scotia
J. Arthur Gallagher
Archival Footage Courtesy of
CBC Archives Sales
New Brooklyn Media
Island City Studios, LLC
Boat Harbour Photograph
Inspired by the book
‘”The Mill – Fifty years of pulp and protest” by
Robert Aske, Ben Anderson, Robert Bean, Stephen Bortolon,
Robert Cervelli, Patricia Dyson Baileigh Dwyer, Alden Francis,
David Fraser, Andrew Jack & Shirley Gammon, Dave Gunning,
Matt Gunning, Criss Hajek, Katherine Knight, Michael Laffin,
Karla MacFarlane, Mallory MacKenzie, Gerald McIssac, Jason Rankin,
Bill Roswell, Graham Steele, Linda Townsend,
Michael van den Heuvel, Linda Wood, Chris Zimmer
Heather Head, Pictou Landing First Nation
Northumberland Fishermen’s Association
Kathy Cloutier, Paper Excellence
Maida Murray for her generous hospitality which made this film possible.
General Manager, Programming
Executive Director, Unscripted Content
Senior Director, Documentary
Senior Director of Production, Unscripted Content
Executive in Charge of Production