Late yesterday, Grassy Narrows First Nation Chief Rudy Turtle announced that an agreement has been signed with the federal government to fund the entire cost of building the Mercury Care Home for community members who are suffering from mercury poisoning.
This is wonderful news!
For the last decade, the Council of Canadians has been supporting Grassy Narrows in their demands for compensation, adequate health care and the remediation of contaminated lands and waters. Tens of thousands of Council of Canadians supporters participated in our campaigns to get successive provincial and federal governments to fulfill our collective responsibilities towards the people of Grassy Narrows. This agreement is a major step forward.
The Toronto Star reports that the agreement "commits Ottawa to spend $19.5 million to build the home. The new deal also commits Ottawa to provide long-term funding for operations and maintenance, including federally funded services such as nursing, personal support workers, dieticians, palliative care and mental health counselling programs."
People in Grassy Narrows continue to suffer the effects of mercury poisoning, exhibiting symptoms such as loss of motor function, tingling and weakness in limbs, difficulty speaking and swallowing.
Bringing care closer to home is important to the Grassy Narrows community. The Star notes that, "After a long battle with a degenerative neurological disorder, former chief and care home advocate Steve Fobister died in 2018, not at home close to his relatives and culture, but in a Kenora hospital after shuttling between there and a Thunder Bay facility 600 kilometres from Grassy Narrows."
Grassy Narrows continues to call for compensation for all community members for the impacts of the ongoing mercury crisis and for all the support required to restore their health, way of life, livelihood, self-determination, lands and waters.
Grassy Narrows was a vibrant and largely self-sufficient community with a high employment rate, mostly in the sport and commercial fisheries, until 50 years ago when our governments allowed a paper mill to dump 10 tonnes of mercury into the pristine waters Grassy Narrows had relied upon for millennia.