QUEENS PARK – Glen Murray, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, issued the following statement today on Ontario’s investment of an additional $85 million for the remediation of the English-Wabigoon River system:
“Mercury contamination has had a profound impact on the people of Grassy Narrows First Nation and Wabaseemoong (Whitedog) Independent Nations, and has to be properly addressed. In February 2017, on behalf of the Ontario government, Minister Zimmer and I made a commitment to the First Nations to take action on remediation of mercury contamination in the English-Wabigoon River system. This commitment involves working with First Nations and partners to first identify all potentially contaminated sites, and then create and implement a comprehensive remediation action plan for the river system.
As an immediate next step and in addition to previous funding commitments, Ontario is providing $85 million in dedicated funding for the remediation of the English-Wabigoon River system. This historic financial commitment will be devoted to the cost of the remediation, including the engineering design and implementation of remediation measures and long-term monitoring. These funds will be spent in partnership with First Nations through the negotiation of a collaborative governance model. The remediation options that are chosen will be based on the scientific fieldwork that is currently underway and in partnership with First Nations.
Chief Fobister, Chief Paishk, Minister Zimmer and I make up the membership of the political leadership table, whose mandate it is to ensure the remediation of the river system is done in a timely manner and meets the commitments made by the Ontario government to the First Nations. We are committed to setting up a structure to cooperatively manage the funds and I look forward to our ongoing discussions.
This $85 million commitment builds on the current scientific work and ongoing community engagement, funded by the province. To date, the province has provided $2.5 million for this accelerated science, sampling and analysis work, which will inform the extent of the mercury contamination and determine which remediation options may be the most appropriate for each site. We will be providing an additional $2.7 million this year to accelerate the work now underway. This brings the total budget to $5.2 million for scientific pre-remediation work in the English Wabigoon River system.
We are determined to right these historic wrongs, and we realize that actions speak louder than words. For these reasons, we are committed to working with the First Nations and respecting their leadership. The $85 million commitment is a definitive action that will ensure we can fulfil our commitments to the local First Nations and the remediation of the river system.”