A little over 40 years ago, commercial fishing was banned in the Wabigoon River due to mercury contamination from a pulp and paper mill in Dryden, Ontario. The ban was followed by the loss of local fishing jobs and the local fisheries have still not recovered. In March of this year, a commercial fisherman was fined for selling mercury tainted fish caught from the Wabigoon river. Sometimes the legal system acknowledges mercury contamination in the river. Other times, McGuinty and the Province have failed to understand what this “acknowledgement” really means.
For years members of Grassy Narrows First Nation have been demanding justice for the toxic chemicals dumped into their river systems which have impacted their drinking water and their primary food source. Low level exposure to mercury has caused varying degrees of Mininmata disease—a neurological disorder which can cause blindness, mobility issues, and at worse can be fatal. Community members in Grassy Narrows as well as in White Dog and Wabauskang, two other communities downstream from the Dryden mill are still facing the health impacts. It has been over half a century ago that dumping began but McGuinty and the Ontario government have still failed to recognize and acknowledge the severity of the contamination and take action.
Dr. Harada, a Japanese doctor specializing in the health impacts of mercury, found that 79% of the patients from Grassy Narrows had symptoms of Minimata disease. Many of these patients have been denied compensation by the province, and those who were promised compensation by the Province were done so in 1985. This compensation has not been corrected for inflation.
The community has several demands to bring justice to their community and many will be coming to Toronto next week to bring their demands to Queen’s Park. Some will be coming in busses and train, but youth from Grassy Narrows have been walking over 2000kms over the past month to come Toronto and been spreading their message along the way. They will be raising awareness about the decades of mercury contamination as well as Indigenous lad and water rights.
Council of Canadians has been organizing with a coalition of Grassy Narrows supporters in Toronto including EarthRoots, Greenpeace, Christian Peacemaker Team, Student Christian Movement, and No One Is Illegal-Toronto for the River Run 2012. We were also involved in the 2010 River Run where Maude Barlow spoke to a packed room in Toronto’s Steelworker’s Hall. This year there will be multiple events in Toronto:
Speaking event with Judy Da Silva, Dr. Hanada, and Lee Maracle.
Tuesday, June 5th, 6:30pm at Steelworker’s Hall, 25 Cecil Street
Fish Fry at
Wednesday June 6th, Noon at Queen’s Park (South lawn)
March and Rally with Grassy Narrows
Friday June 8, Noon. Grange Park (behind the Art Gallery of Ontario on Beverly)
Join Grassy Narrows First Nation and supporters next week in Toronto. For more information, visit FreeGrassy.net