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UPDATE: Council of Canadians stands with Grassy Narrows

NOW Magazine reports that, “No community has had more experience standing up to corporate polluters than the Grassy Narrows First Nation north of Kenora. From the mercury poisoning they made a world issue to the logging devastation they stopped, these folks have been through it all.” Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow, water campaigner Meera Karunananthan, and Ontario-Quebec organizer Mark Calzavara will be participating in events in Toronto this week to mark these struggles. For event details, please go to http://freegrassy.net/2010/03/01/river-run-creative-march-and-rally/. Between 1962 and 1970 Dryden Chemicals Limited dumped more than 20,000 pounds of mercury contaminated wastewater into the English-Wabigoon River system in north west Ontario. In April 1970 – forty years ago this week – the Ontario government prohibited fishing in this river because of the high levels of mercury in the water. This pollution devastated the communities of Quibell (the Wabauskang First Nation), Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows First Nation) and Wabaseemong (Whitedog First Nation). The Lake of the Woods Enterprise reported last week that, “It wasn’t until 1986 that the government finally signed a compensation agreement with both Grassy Narrows and Whitedog, which included medical treatment for future generations.” But the mercury will remain in the water for at least another 60 years, the pollution has meant devastating unemployment levels, serious health issues persist, and recent studies show that the fish  are still too toxic to eat. Maude Barlow says, “The tragedy at Grassy Narrows will be repeated unless we recognize that access to clean water is a human right. There is a world-wide scarcity of water now, even in Canada and there is massive pressure to turn water into a commodity to be bought and sold and controlled by corporate interests. I call on the McGuinty government to learn from the people of Grassy Narrows and protect the water for future generations.” Recent coverage of this situation can be seen on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network at http://www.aptn.ca/pages/news/perspectives.