Mi'kmaq sign tar ponds agreement
By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Sat., Oct. 29, 2005
Membertou - The province's first project tendered as an aboriginal
set-aside will be a contaminated cooling pond near the tar ponds. "This is
the first time the government of Nova Scotia has tendered any project as
an aboriginal set-aside," said Energy Minister Cecil Clarke, MLA for Cape
Breton North. "So it's an historic step."
The governments of Canada and Nova Scotia, and Cape Breton Mi'kmaq First
Nations communities signed a protocol agreement to guide discussions on
economic opportunities throughout the tar ponds and coke ovens cleanup.
The agreement was signed Friday at the Membertou Trade and Convention
"The parties to the agreement shall have meaningful discussions that will
result in local benefits for our Mi'kmaq communities and the Cape Breton
workforce," said Membertou Chief Terrance Paul. "We have invited
representatives of the labour unions to this signing to show our support
and willingness to work together to achieve as much for local benefits as
"We have an opportunity to clean up this mess using our own people, Nova
Scotia people," he continued.
Paul said traditional waters on the island have been impacted by the steel
industry for more than 100 years.
"The signing of this protocol agreement today represents the beginning of
a new era of collaboration between the province, the federal government
and the Mi'kmaq," said Paul. "It is now time to clean up the lands and the
waters that sustain us."
Chapel Island (Potlotek) Chief Wilbert Marshall said the cleanup is a
"rare, one-time opportunity for a major, local project to have a large,
positive impact on both the economy and social conditions on Cape Breton."
"If we can collectively keep much of the supply of goods and human
resources on the island, the impact on household and local business
incomes will be a boost to the economy," he said. "This can benefit First
Nations just as well as our non-aboriginal neighbours, and we share this
opportunity willingly and enthusiastically."
Before the signing, Brison, minister of Public Works and Government
Services Canada, visited some of the work underway at the toxic site. The
work is the realignment of Coke Ovens Brook and the moving of a water main
providing drinking water to Whitney Pier consumers.
"It's good to see bulldozers instead of briefcases," said Brison, who
added the $400 million earmarked for the cleanup will be a boost to Cape
Breton, Nova Scotia and Canada.
The provincial government used the terms and conditions Ottawa has for its
aboriginal set-asides. The agreement will limit bidding to firms with
majority First Nations ownership and control. If a bidding company has six
or more employees, at least one-third must be aboriginal. There are also
rules for subcontractors and joint ventures. First Nations communities
across Canada can apply.
The detailed design and construction oversight for the cooling pond
project is nearly complete. Tenders for the job are expected by February.
Bernd Christmas, Membertou's chief executive officer, said the community
will be working to have a bid ready by the time the tender for the cooling
pond project is complete
"The cleanup of the tar ponds represents a multi-million dollar
opportunity and the Mi'kmaq look forward to bidding on the contracts and
facilitating economic opportunities for all of Cape Breton," said
Clarke said former steelworkers recently met with Ron Russell, minister in
charge of the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, to express their desire to get
clean up work.