Membertou wants say in cleanup

Page 3 article
Tanya Collier MacDonald
Cape Breton Post
Monday, May 15, 2003

The native community closest to Canada's worst toxic waste site is demanding an independent analysis of options aimed at cleaning up the site.

Membertou Chief Terry Paul said the native community does agree with the Joint Action Group's goal to "get rid of the toxic mess. To eliminate it in the best way possible."

But, he isn't certain that options being touted by the com munity-driven process are the right ones. A recent motion from JAG's steering committee cites co-burning the material at a power plant or cement kiln as the most popular method of cleaning up the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens sites. JAG plans to give its formal approval on the motion May 28.
" We'd like to have our own experts look at the situation and advise us what is the best solu tion."
Paul said the community will be seeking funding from the fed eral government to hire inde pendent experts to analyze the cleanup options being presented through JAG. As to whether or not the request will slow down the cleanup process, Paul said, "we're just as anxious as anyone else to get this cleaned up. It real ly depends on the government and how quickly they move."

A position paper is now being compiled by Membertou officials and is planned to be presented to government by the end of May or the first of June. It will address the community's concerns on the cleanup and outline funding requirements.
"This is a very serious matter and very important. We just can't slap something together and present it. We have to ensure it's well thought out and well researched."
Paul said the federal government has a "legal obligation to meet with us directly - especially our community which is closest to the tar ponds problem."

Consultation through the Joint Action Group is not acceptable, he said.
"We as a government didn't want to be part of that process. The government has to deal with us much more than just through a subgroup or a committee. I feel (JAG is) doing the job it needs to do on behalf of the general public, but it does not act or represent our people. We can represent ourselves very well."

Garth Bangay, Atlantic regional director for Environment Canada, said he was surprised Tuesday by the native community's request.
"I thought we had taken the time to meet with people and to discuss the process that we were involved in and we had thought we had an undertaking from everybody that the process we designed would be appropriate. And that included the chief of Membertou and the others as well."
In fact, a work plan was devel oped with the Union of Nova Scotia Indians on how to carry out the consultation as the cleanup progressed, said Bangay.
"We thought we had an understanding of what was required."

Whether or not the request will slow down the cleanup "really depends on what they ask for. I really have to wait to hear back from them. I've stressed with them that it's important for the whole project that we hear from them as soon as we can. And I think they understand that. Once we have that, then we'll know where we're going."

For the past several years, chiefs and councils for native communities in Cape Breton especially Membertou have had special consultations with government when projects requiring environmental screenings were being implemented on the site, said Bangay.