Nova Scotia

Digby Neck residents fighting Whites Point Quarry get some international support

Part-time Digby Neck community member Noah Richler says the fight against Whites Point Quarry is about Canadian sovereignty.

U.S. company Bilcon is seeking $101 million in damages against the Canadian government

Part-time community member Noah Richler says a decision on the federal government’s appeal of the NAFTA decision should come in the fall. (CBC)

People fighting plans for Whites Point Quarry in Digby Neck, N.S., got some international support this week.

Author and journalist Noah Richler welcomed Anne-Marie Mineur, a Dutch Member of the European Parliament (MEP), along with a member of the Council of Canadians, into his part-time home in Digby Neck. Community members were also there for the information session. 

"We're concerned about the effect this might have across the country on communities, as I say, wanting to seal their own fates," Richler told CBC's Information Morning.

Canadian sovereignty

He said the decade-long debate is bigger than environmental concerns, or whether the project would have created as many jobs as it promised.

It's about Canadian sovereignty, he said.

Richler is concerned government might give in to pressure from Bilcon.

"The legal chill that works at the level of the individual in courts — where basically lawsuits are slapped on to intimidate you or I from doing what we think is right — occurs also at the governmental level," Richler said.

"If mining companies are able to lean on Canada and know they can do so fairly freely, then we're in trouble." 

Ten years ago, local residents came together to stop the American company. 

Canada rejected the deal, but a NAFTA tribunal found it did so wrongly. Now, Bilcon is seeking $101 million in damages against the Canadian government. The federal government is appealing the NAFTA decision.

"Essentially a supranational body has decided against the decision that we've come up with in Canada, to protect our land and our values,"

'Savvy folk on the Neck'

Richler said around 2002 Bilcon made an application for a quarry that was around 3.9 hectares at Whites Point. However, people noticed that the company application was also for a marine terminal.

"Savvy folk on the Neck figured out that 3.9 hectares wasn't enough to feed very large vessels leaving the Bay of Fundy … and that obviously plans were much larger," Richler said.

It turned out that number was closer to around 120 hectares, Richler said.

A joint review on the project heard from proponents and witnesses, but also residents, fishermen and interested operators along Digby Neck, Richler said.

That review decided against the project, based on the potential environmental, economic and social effects.

A new generation 

A decision on the federal government's appeal should come in the fall, Richler said.

He hopes the environment and trade ministers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are paying attention.

Bilcon, or any other quarry company, could still make an application for a quarry as things stand now.

"We might have to go through this whole process again," Richler said. "But there are a whole new generation of folk who are ready."

With files from Information Morning