QUEENS PARK – POLITICS – Sol Mamakwa was up in Queen’s Park on October 25th on the subject of Grassy Narrows, asking q question on behalf of the family of former Grand Chief Steve Fobister Senior.
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: Meegwetch.
Remarks in Ogi-Cree.
Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Acting Premier. Two weeks ago, I rose in this House to ask a question on behalf of the family of Steven Fobister Sr. and the people of Grassy Narrows, as did the Leader of the Opposition.
At that time, there were fitting tributes to the former grand chief from both sides of this place.
But what I asked went unanswered.
Will the Acting Premier rise now and acknowledge that Steven Fobister Sr. lived with and died from the effects of Minamata disease?
Hon. Christine Elliott: To the government House leader.
Hon. Todd Smith: I acknowledge the question from the member opposite and the members who are here from Grassy Narrows in question period this morning.
I would also acknowledge that our government is taking the situation in Grassy Narrows very seriously. Already, our minister for northern affairs, Greg Rickford, and our Minister of the Environment, Rod Phillips, sitting directly behind me, have been to Grassy Narrows to meet with the Chief and Elders. I know that they are going to be continuing that type of dialogue in the days and months and years to come.
Unfortunately, what happened in Grassy Narrows is an historic tragedy, to be quite honest, in that region. I know that our government is committed to working extremely closely with the members of Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong to come to a proper conclusion in this case. Just to continue our commitment to northern Ontario, our Premier and our Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry are in northern Ontario, making more positive announcements.
The Speaker (Hon. Ted Arnott): Supplementary?
Mr. Sol Mamakwa: My question is to the Acting Premier again: Since, as the Minister of Indigenous Affairs was very quick to mention, he has direct experience with former Chief Fobister in Grassy Narrows, this government should have no problem acknowledging that Chief Fobister was sick from mercury poisoning.
Will the Acting Premier and the Minister of Health, on behalf of this government, commit today to compensate everyone in the community of Grassy Narrows and the others who are affected by it for the ongoing impacts on their health and livelihoods due to mercury poisoning?
Hon. Todd Smith: Again, thanks to the member opposite for the question, and welcome to the members from Grassy Narrows.
I can tell you in direct response to that question: It’s shameful that it took the previous Liberal government as long as it did without doing anything for that community. Our government has already taken immediate action to ensure that people who receive mercury disability payments are properly compensated, by retroactively indexing payments to the rate of inflation. That includes the folks in Grassy Narrows. These payments have been frozen for over 30 years, and that’s unacceptable.
On behalf of the Minister of Indigenous Affairs, this is one small part of the work that we’re doing to address the long-standing challenges faced by the people in Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong. Our government continues to work with the First Nations community there and the federal government to clean up that river system, which has caused so much heartache for the people in that community, and to take care of the people who are sick in that community and help put the communities on a path towards a better future.