Price to be paid for voicing views on the cleanup

Letter by Keith MacDonald
Cape Breton Post
Thurs., Feb. 10, 2005

Finally the project description and scoping document for the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens cleanup have been released for public consideration. Government partners want feedback, following which a decision will be made on the type of environmental assessment to be undertaken.

On the surface, the process seems straightforward enough and appears to accommodate civil debate. Well, let me offer that there is more to this than meets the eye.

Sierra Club has drawn a line in the sand. It opposes the cleanup as laid out. Those who choose to differ are in for a rough ride. I speak from first-hand experience.

I came to Sydney a few years ago from the west side of Cape Breton to enroll at University College of Cape Breton. Following graduation, I opted to settle here despite the many pressures to join the crowd and migrate. My upbringing embodied an obligation to give back to the community, and I have endeavoured to practice this where I can.

The importance of the tar ponds and coke ovens cleanup has been apparent to me for some time. Therefore, I decided to become involved in an effort to help move the project along to completion after more than two decades of debate and study. In stepping forward, I entered another zone - a place of disrespectul, uncivilized behaviour.

Sierra Club feigns civility and tolerance, but out of public view it's an entirely different scene. This was clearly demonstrated this week in the lobby of the Delta Sydney where I was publicly disparaged, intimidated and berated by Bruno Marcocchio, Atlantic campaigner for Sierra Club of Canada.

Those in government eliciting the views of the community should understand that in this otherwise ordinary place, there is a price to be paid for publicly voicing one's opinion on the cleanup. Sadly, I have to believe that because of the repugnant antics of people such as Mr. Marcocchio there are many who will hold back for fear of harassment.

This indeed is unfortunate and a grave disservice to community youth who want to be a part of important issues like the cleanup.

Keith Macdonald