Cancelling book signing infringes on free speech: Nova Scotia MLA

A Nova Scotia MLA is raising concerns about freedom of speech after a Toronto-based retail chain cancelled a local book signing amid controversy over the book's portrayal of an area pulp mill.

Pictou West MLA Karla MacFarlane says the decision to cancel the book signing at the Coles bookstore in New Glasgow, N.S., was the "wrong move" as it infringes on freedom of speech.

The Abercrombie, N.S., mill has been a longstanding employer in the region but has also ignited public outcry over air pollution and toxic effluent.

A spokeswoman for Paper Excellence Group, the parent company of the Northern Pulp Nova Scotia Corp. pulp mill, says the mill's management wrote a letter objecting to the book signing and encouraged its workers, retirees and their families to sign and submit the letter to the bookstore "of their own free accord."

While Kathy Cloutier says the letter was written at the request of employees, MacFarlane says it appears to have put "a lot of pressure" on workers.

Yet MacFarlane says the mill's opposition to the book, and efforts to shut down the book signing, appear to have backfired as she predicts Joan Baxter's book "The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest" will likely sell out.