Toronto – Momentum is building behind Grassy Narrows First Nation’s demand for the government to clean the 9,000 kg of mercury that was dumped in the Wabigoon River in the 1960s. The Ontario Regional Chief, Dr. David Suzuki, the Canadian Labour Congress, Margaret Atwood, Jane Fonda, the NDP, and even Liberal MP Bob Nault have all backed Grassy Narrows.
So have nearly fifty human rights, faith, environmental, labour, and social justice groups. Yesterday over 1,000 people marched with Grassy Narrows, led by nearly 27 Grassy Narrows youth, to demand a clean-up of their poisoned river and respect for indigenous rights.
Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister Sr. called personally on Premier Wynne to make a clear commitment to heal their river.
“We know that our river can be made safe. No more fancy words, no more studies,” said Chief Simon Fobister Sr. “We know the mercury is there. We’ve lived it. We’ve lost our economy as a result, we’ve lost our health as a result. Today we want action. We just want the premier to say, ‘I’m going to clean this river.”
“Efforts to remediate the mercury have been postponed long enough,” said Bob Nault, Member of Parliament (Kenora Riding) this week. “These new findings indicate that it is feasible to begin removing the chemical and work towards a heathier waterway.”
This week Regional Chief Isadore Day said: “In the spirit of reconciliation, the Ontario government should do the right thing,” and clean up the Wabigoon River system.
MPP Sarah Campbell said: “When will this government do what everyone knows needs to be done and clean up the Wabigoon River, so the people in Grassy Narrows may fish and live off their land without becoming sick? Campbell said.
David Suzuki on Grassy Narrows
Dr. David Suzuki said: “No single act would go further to illustrate that a new era has dawned in our relationship with Indigenous peoples and our shared environment.”
Under sustained pressure this week the Wynne government has softened their stance, but refuses to commit clearly to clean up the river that is the lifeblood of the Grassy Narrows First Nation.
“We are past the idea of doing more studies to look at the problem,” said Minister Glen Murray. “We are now looking very specifically—working with Grassy Narrows First Nation and the federal government to figure out exactly what we have to do… We are going to work very closely… to ensure that we have proper solutions. The current situation is unacceptable… I will not see this continue on my watch”
Premier Wynne said: “I want there to be science that we can use to clean up the sediment and clean up the water and make sure that ecosystem is clean. We have a report now that suggests that there may be a way of doing that, but the first thing the report says is, we need to look at some field studies because it’s not conclusive.”
An expert report earlier this week shows that one of Canada’s most notorious toxic dumping sites can be cleaned. Multiple generations of Grassy Narrows First Nation’s people suffer from the debilitating health impacts of mercury poisoning including loss of vision, imbalance, and trembling. Nothing has been done to clean the Wabigoon River in over 45 years since a paper mill dumped 9,000 kilograms of mercury, a potent neurotoxin, into the waterway that provides fish and water to Grassy Narrows First Nation and their neighbours.