The Mill – Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest

“The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest” (Pottersfield Press, 2017)

Cover photo by Dr. Gerry Farrell


This book explores the power that a single industry can wield over an entire province, namely Nova Scotia in eastern Canada. It is a story that has been waiting to be told. With a powerful foreword by Elizabeth May, leader of Canada’s Green Party and Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands, British Columbia, it has local, national and even global relevance.




What people are saying about the book

Erica Butler, Save the humans: Heartbreaking stories of staggering greed and its catastrophic environmental impact November 1, 2017. Atlantic Books Today #84 Fall 2017.

“Reading Joan Baxter’s The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest, the story of the infamous Abercrombie pulp mill in Pictou County, is shocking and upsetting. I can’t say what hits hardest. Perhaps it’s the desperate giveaway of Nova Scotia’s forests to foreign corporations with decades-long leases at bargain bin prices. Or it could be the obviously high-risk, careless decision to pump a healthy tidal estuary full of millions of litres of chemical effluent in hopes that nature would somehow clean it up. Or maybe it’s the deception and strong arming involved in getting the Pictou Landing First Nation to allow just that to happen in their own backyard, almost instantly decimating the waters its residents relied on for food and recreation.

Any one of those aspects of this story is jaw dropping and agonizing to read about, but the straw that breaks the camel’s back is simply this: It’s been going on for over 50 years and it’s still going on today.

There’s little in Baxter’s friendly, highly readable account of the Pictou County pulp mill that is not still happening today, be it short-sighted forest management, lack of mill oversight, pricey government payouts to corporations or broken promises to clean up and restore Boat Harbour, the Pictou Landing First Nation’s beleaguered tidal estuary.

Through Baxter we hear from Pictou Landing Elders and activists and a multi-generational group of other Pictou community residents and activists. Many acknowledge that the mill has brought badly needed jobs to Pictou. But most question the price that was paid for those jobs.

The Mill is a valuable document of Nova Scotia history that connects directly to our present day. As I read it, I couldn’t help thinking that it should make its way into high school curricula. As Elizabeth May writes in her foreword:

‘More people need to understand the political deals that brought this mill into being and protect it still. Can nothing change the political culture of Nova Scotia to protect its citizens?'”

and …

Adam MacInnis. Book delves into history of Northern Pulp and impact on community. November 8, 2017. The News.

“In addition to documenting the 50 years of protest surrounding the mill, Baxter hopes that it will encourage future leaders to think more about the decisions that have been made in relation to the mill and future decisions related to other corporations.

‘I hope some of the politicians will read this book and say let’s stop making mistakes,’ she said.

This book wouldn’t have been possible, Baxter said, without the help of people in Pictou County who have been willing to sit down and share their stories and personal research. She said the Clean the Mill Facebook group members were particularly helpful.

‘The amount of research they’ve done on their own time is amazing.’”


Upcoming events

Launch and book reading “The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest”, Thursday, November 16, 2017: 6:30 – 9 PM, The Wooden Monkey, 305 – 40 Alderney Drive, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

Launch and book reading “The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest”, Tuesday, November 21, 2017: 7 – 9 PM, Special guest star, internationally acclaimed folk musician and songwriter Dave Gunning, performing tunes inspired by his work with Clean The Mill group. Museum of Industry, Stellarton, Nova Scotia

Author book signing “The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest”, Saturday, November 25, 2017: 12 noon – 1:30 PM, Indigo Chapters bookstore, 41 Mic Mac Boulevard, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

Author book signing “The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest”, Saturday, December 2, 2017: 12 noon – 1:30 PM, Coles Bookstore, Truro Mall, 245 Robie St, Truro, Nova Scotia

Author book signing “The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest”, Saturday, December 2, 2017: 3 – 4:30 PM, Coles Bookstore, Highland Square Mall, 689 Westville Rd, New Glasgow, Nova Scotia


Book documents five decades of pulp and controversy

November 1, 2017

Fifty years ago this month a long list of dignitaries and politicians gathered at Abercrombie Point in Pictou County, northern Nova Scotia, for the official luncheon and opening of the brand new pulp mill owned by Scott Paper of Philadelphia.

Since it went into operation in 1967, the mill has provided valuable jobs and found support from governments of all levels and all stripes. But it has also fomented protest and created deep divisions and tensions in northern Nova Scotia.

Twelve premiers and five foreign corporate owners later, the mill remains a smelly fixture across the harbour from the picturesque waterfront of Pictou, the birthplace of New Scotland.

Its fascinating story is one that has been waiting to be pieced together and told. And that is what Nova Scotian journalist and award-winning author Joan Baxter does in the new book The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest.

Picturesque Pictou waterfront across from the pulp mill. Photo by Joan Baxter

It meticulously and dispassionately documents the history of the Pictou County mill using archival material, government records, consultant and media reports, and poignant interviews with people whose lives have touched by the mill and the pulp industry. By weaving these personal stories into the historical narrative, the book brings to life five decades of controversy and citizen-led campaigns to have the mill clean up its act, and to have government protect the people and environment rather than lavishing hundreds of millions of dollars of financing and other concessions on a mill owned by large corporations.

Boat Harbour in June 2016. Photo by Joan Baxter

This book takes readers to Pictou Landing to hear from members of the First Nation there, and learn about their betrayal by both provincial and federal governments, which turned Boat Harbour – so precious to them that they called it “the other room” (A’se’K in the Mi’kmaq language) – into a stinking, toxic wasteland. It gives voice to people whose well-being, health, homes, water, air, businesses have been affected by the mill’s effluent and emissions, and to people whose livelihoods have depended on the pulp mill.

This compelling book is a rich tapestry of story-telling, of great interest to everyone who is concerned about how we can start to renegotiate the relationship between the economy, jobs, and profits on one hand, and human well-being, health, and a healthy environment on the other.

The Mill tells a local story with global relevance and appeal. It is a story of corporate capture of governments and regulatory agencies that citizens have been protesting and struggling to reverse for the last half century … and even longer.

About the author: Joan Baxter is a journalist, science writer, anthropologist and an award-winning author. She has written seven books, authored many media and research reports on international development and foreign investment, and reported for the BBC World Service and contributed to many other media, including the CBC, Le Monde Diplomatique, Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, The Chronicle Herald, The Coast.

The Mill is available in selected bookstores, and also online at:

Chapters Indigo

Nimbus Publishing


 For more information / media inquiries:

Joan Baxter:,

Lesley Choyce, Pottersfield Press: lchoyce@ns.sympatico