Mi'kmaq have deal with governments cleaning up tar ponds: Christmas

By Tanya Collier Macdonald
Cape Breton Post
Tues., Oct. 5, 2005

Membertou - Cape Breton's First Nation communities have an agreement in principle with governments cleaning up Sydney's toxic sites.

Although Bernd Christmas, chief executive officer of Membertou, wouldn't divulge details about the agreement, he told the Cape Breton Post a major announcement is planned for Oct. 28.

For the past few years, the island's five First Nation communities have worked to secure a deal with Ottawa and Nova Scotia concerning the tar ponds and coke oven sites project. Membertou has led those discussions with government.

Of particular concern to the communities is ensuring that their constitutional rights are protected and government lives up to its fiduciary duty. It also wants assurances the toxic sites are remediated properly and the communities benefit from a business perspective.

Christmas has said Membertou is aiming to profit from the amount of data generated from numerous studies done on the toxic sites. It's working to develop a state-of-the-art data management and storage centre that could house tar ponds data as well as additional information from other government and business activities in Canada. A feasibility study was conducted on the business initiative.

Membertou has also asked government for $1.8 million in federal funding to conduct its own study of technologies capable of cleaning up the toxic sites. In addition, the native community sent a letter to Ottawa more than two years ago seeking compensation for its loss of fishing due to tar pond sludge contaminating Sydney harbour.

Ancestors of Membertou residents lived along the shore of Sydney harbour until they were forced to relocate in 1928. What was once the Kings Road reserve is now home to a medical arts centre.

The communities have met with federal negotiator Alphonse Cormier to have their rights addressed.