Sol Mamakwa Seeks Solutions for Grassy Narrows

Resolute Paper Mill in Dryden Ontario
Paper Mill in Dryden Ontario


QUEEN’S PARK – The NDP is demanding the Ford government honour the agreement that Ontario reached with the people of Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong – and the law – by acting immediately to clean up mercury contamination of their river and land. Sadly, on Wednesday, the Ford Conservatives refused to confirm if Ford will scrap the agreement and cut the clean-up funding.

NDP MPP for Kiiwetinoong Sol Mamakwa made the demand Wednesday during question period at Queen’s Park.

“The people of Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong, the First Peoples of this land, have reached an agreement with the provincial government,” said Mamakwa. “$85 million was put in trust to go towards cleaning the river of the mercury that has been poisoning the people in these communities.

“This government must act as quickly as possible to clean up the river and the land, and to ensure everyone gets high-quality care. They must, as New Democrats have proposed, contribute to a mercury treatment centre for the people in these communities.

“But to do these things they must consult and work with the people. What contact has the premier made with the Chief and Council of Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong?

“So much damage has been done already, and waiting is only making things worse. This government cannot be allowed to drag its feet any longer.”

Minister Rickford responded, “We’re committed to safe, clean drinking water in those two communities, as we are for every community across Ontario. We’re also committed to ensuring that those two communities have the same kind of economic opportunities moving forward as other communities. There are mining exploration activities immediately in the region, and we want those communities to have increased prosperity, to have access to jobs, and to have access to the kinds of things that many other Ontarians have come to expect.”

The Exchange During Question Period:

Mercury poisoning

Mr. Sol Mamakwa: Speaker.

Remarks in Oji-Cree.

My question is to the Minister of Indigenous Affairs. The people of Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong, the first peoples of this land, have reached an agreement with the provincial government: $85 million was put in trust to go towards cleaning the river of the mercury that has been poisoning the people in these communities.

The Premier, during the campaign, said that his government would clean up the river and the land as quickly as possible and ensure everyone gets high-quality care. What has the government done to fulfill this commitment?

Hon. Greg Rickford: I thank the member for his question.

Every Ontario resident deserves to have access to safe, clean drinking water. We will work closely with those Indigenous communities, Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong—two communities I’m intimately familiar with—and the opportunity to correct that wrong, Mr. Speaker.

We’ll also be working and challenging our federal government partners to make sure that those two communities have safe drinking water. The federal government must step up to ensure that every Ontario resident can count on this government for that commitment.

As the member of provincial Parliament for Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong should know, I have been involved in this file for a very long time. We take it very seriously and we hope to protect, defend and deliver a solution for these two communities.

The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary?

Mr. Sol Mamakwa: Back to the Minister of Indigenous Affairs: When a promise is made to First Nations people, the first peoples of this land, it has to be kept.

1130

What contact has the Premier made with the chief and council of Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong? When can they expect the cleanup of the river and the land with the mercury contamination? Will the Premier, as the New Democrats had committed, contribute to a mercury treatment centre for the people in these communities?

Hon. Greg Rickford: Mr. Speaker, as I previously stated, we’re committed to safe, clean drinking water in those two communities, as we are for every community across Ontario. We’re also committed to ensuring that those two communities have the same kind of economic opportunities moving forward as other communities. There are mining exploration activities immediately in the region, and we want those communities to have increased prosperity, to have access to jobs, and to have access to the kinds of things that many other Ontarians have come to expect.

Moving forward, Mr. Speaker, I can assure this member that I’ve met with senior officials in my department. We’ve discussed the opportunity here to correct and fix that problem. We’re committed to it for the benefit not only of those communities but the people in our vast and beautiful region of Kenora–Rainy River.