Herbicide Trials

Year Published:  1986
Resource Type:  Film/Video
Cx Number:  CX3158

HERBICDE TRIALS examines the use of chemical sprays on Nova Scotia woodlands. The film focuses on 15 Cape Bretoners who went to court in 1982 to stop Nova Scotia Forest Industries, a subsidiary of a Swedith-based mulinational, from spraying the herbicides 2,4,D and 2,4,5,T on 20,000 acres of Crown land near their homes.

The plaintiffs feared that the spraying would contaminate their land and waters. The nearby Micmac Indians claimed that the chemical encroachment upon their hunting grounds and drinking water constituted not only a health hazard but also an infringement of their aboriginal rights. The plaintiffs put their homes and possessions up as collateral and $150,000 was raised in the community to help cover court costs.

During the trial, the judge heard from various "experts" on both sides, and deliberated for 101 days before ruling against the landowners. They lost their case primarily because the burden of proof was on them -- they had to prove that the chemicals were harmful, instead of the chemical companies having to prove that they were not. Disatrous as it was to the citizens who launched the suit, the decision has sparked a call for reforms in environmental law. Governmental and regulatory bodies are recognized that to ensure full participation, funding must be made available to citizens groups. As well, Dow Chemical has ceased producing the more potent of the two herbicides in question.

Senior officials of Canadian forestry associations have launched a vigorous campaign to discredit HERBICIDE TRIALS , arguing that the film "addresses the issue purely from an emotional point of view."

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