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Grassy Narrows: It’s not too late for the Ontario government to do the right thing



In a joint statement issued today, 16 social justice organizations, faith groups, trade unions, and environmental organizations are calling on Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to immediately withdraw the provinces 10 year plan for clearcut logging on the traditional territory of the Grassy Narrows First Nation.

The organizations are particularly alarmed by the province
s refusal to conduct an environmental impact assessment of its logging plans, despite acknowledgement that runoff from clearcutting could lead to the introduction of more mercury into the river system.

In the 1960s, the province allowed an upstream pulp and paper mill to dump massive quantities of mercury into the river. The river system has never been cleaned up and the people of Grassy Narrows are still dealing with a severe health crisis.

Read the joint statement here.


Groups urge public involvement in review of Oak Ridges Moraine and Greenbelt plans


Toronto, ON – This afternoon the provincial government launched the much anticipated public review of the plans that protect the Oak Ridges Moraine, Niagara Escarpment and Greenbelt. This review is an important opportunity to strengthen these plans to further protect water, nature and communities in the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

"When these plans were first introduced over 10 years ago, they represented the leading edge in conservation planning and protection of our invaluable land and water resources," says Debbe Crandall, policy advisor for Save the Oak Ridges Moraine (STORM) Coalition. “This review positions the province to re-commit to a strong environmental agenda by strengthening these plans and eliminating policy gaps that have emerged, with the goal of leaving a protected landscape for the next generation of Ontarians,” she adds.


Ontario’s biologists called clear-cut logging plan ‘big step backwards’

Earthroots says scientists’ comments in 2010 reveal ‘heated debate’ about the mercury impact of clear-cutting on fish and human health.

The Star,

Grassy Narrows is a community of about 1,500 near Kenora, Ont., and was the site of mercury poisoning in the 1960s after a paper mill dumped 10 tonnes of the heavy metal into the river system in the 1960s. The community is now concerned clear-cut logging will increase mercury levels in local fish, a traditional dietary staple.


Grassy Narrows is a community of about 1,500 near Kenora, Ont., and was the site of mercury poisoning in the 1960s after a paper mill dumped 10 tonnes of the heavy metal into the river system in the 1960s. The community is now concerned clear-cut logging will increase mercury levels in local fish, a traditional dietary staple.


Ontario’s fisheries biologists were scathing about a guide approved in 2010 that laid out conditions for controversial clear-cut logging across the province, with some calling it a “big step backwards,” according to documents obtained through freedom of information requests.

When a regional director with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry complained about its inadequate review process, he was told there was pressure from senior management and industry to move fast.

Four years after the guide was approved, Ontario gave the go-ahead to its 10-year provincial logging plan one year ago.

Environmental agency Earthroots obtained the documents from the ministry a few days after the province rejected a request from Grassy Narrows, a First Nations reserve about 80 kilometres north of Kenora, for an individual environmental assessment into the impact of clear-cut logging on that community.

To read the full article click here.


Thank you for another great year.


Thanks to the support from people like you, Earthroots was able to achieve numerous conservation victories in 2014:

Grassy Narrows – We convinced EACOM, one of Ontario's largest lumber companies, to avoid using conflict wood from Grassy Narrows.  Read the article in The Star here.

Temagami – Earthroots and our partners brought all old growth logging in Temagami to a standstill for six months with a request for an Individual Environmental Assessment.

Wolf Lake – Mining claims in the Wolf Lake Forest Reserve began expiring for the first time in 15 years thanks to pressure from our Wolf Lake Coalition.  Visit the Save Wolf Lake website here.

Wolves – We re-launched the Wolves Ontario campaign to build on past successes for improved grey and eastern wolf management (look for our new Wolves Ontario website in 2015!).

Oak Ridges Moraine – Through major media coverage, Earthroots brought much needed attention to the issue of contaminated soil being dumped on the Moraine.  Read the article in The Star here.

Tools for Change – Earthroots and our partners hosted 20 training workshops and through the program over 400 people developed their skills to advocate for social and environmental justice this year.  Visit the Tools for Change website here.


Thank you for your support - we wish you and yours all the best in the New Year!


ON says ‘no’ to environmental assessment of clearcut mercury impacts in Grassy Narrows

Science indicates that clearcuts will deepen the tragedy of mercury poisoning



Read the coverage in The Star and on CBC.

Listen to the piece on CBC's radio program, Up North.


Grassy Narrows – On the night before Christmas Grassy Narrows First Nation received notice that Ontario is rejecting the community’s request for an Individual Environmental Assessment of the mercury impacts from the controversial final plan for clearcut logging on their homeland.  Grassy Narrows is concerned that the planned clearcut logging will harm the health of their families by raising mercury poison levels in local fish – a traditional staple.  

Ontario's logging plan makes no mention of mercury, and contains no special measures to account for the fact that Grassy Narrows’ homeland is the site of Canada’s most infamous case of mercury poisoning arising from 9,000 kg of mercury that was dumped into their river by a paper mill upstream in the 1960’s.  Scientific studies indicate that clearcut logging in the boreal forest can raise mercury in fish to unsafe levels. 

“Ontario has ignored our voices and is planning to force more devastating clearcuts on our people without even applying their own Individual Environmental Assessment process,” said Joseph Fobister, a Grassy Narrows land-user and businessman.  “It makes me sad that our people will become even sicker if the government allows the logging industry to poison the fish that we eat.”

“I am disheartened by this hurtful decision,” said Chief Roger Fobister Sr. of Grassy Narrows.  “It seems that our health and our culture do not matter to the government as they attempt to force their clearcut plans on us.  The only honourable way forward here is to work together to gain our agreement before our land and water are used.” 


Friend of the Greenbelt Award 2014

The 2014 winners of the Friend of the Greenbelt Award. From Left to right: Glenn De Baeremaeker from Save the Rouge Valley System; Debbe Crandall from STORM CoalitionCaroline Schultz from Ontario Nature; Amber Ellis from Earthroots; and Steve Gilchrist, former Cabinet Minister. 


At high noon on a beautiful November day, close to a hundred Ontarians gathered at Hart House’s Great Hall to acknowledge the significant contribution that five individuals have made to the protection of the Oak Ridges Moraine.

Through their work to protect this significant ecological feature, Glenn De Baeremaeker, Debbe Crandall, Amber Ellis, Steve Gilchrist, and Caroline Schultz are characterized by an enthusiastic commitment to the values which demonstrate that possibility does indeed grow in Ontario’s Greenbelt.

The natural hydrological system of the Oak Ridges Moraine is vital to the health and well-being of Ontarians.  About 40 significant rivers and streams flow south to Lake Ontario from their headwaters in the Oak Ridges Moraine, providing clean water for millions of Ontarians.

A special congratulations goes out to these five winners for their steadfast dedication to this critical feature of the Ontario landscape.

Toxic dirt dumped in Ontario’s prime farmland

The Star 


With lax rules and no tracking system, Ontario sits idly while Toronto’s contaminated dirt is dumped in the countryside.

Toronto’s construction boom is unearthing massive volumes of soil contaminated with dangerous heavy metals and petroleum, but it’s nearly impossible to know where the dirt is going because Ontario doesn’t track it.

Instead, thousands of tonnes of toxic earth taken to prime farmland from downtown condominium projects are usually discovered accidentally — by neighbours who report bad odours from soil that is supposed to be “clean.”

Long-term, experts warn of contamination of agricultural land and groundwater, often in the Greenbelt or Oak Ridges Moraine.


Now, groups like Lakeridge Citizens for Clean Water, Earthroots and Save the Oak Ridges Moraine are demanding the tough regulations of a “clean soil act.” They’re seeking rigorous laws that include soil tracking, a definition for “clean” dirt and rules to govern where contaminants are taken.

“The GTA is surrounded by the best farming land and drinking water sources and we will be polluting it for generations if the government continues to turn a blind eye to this problem,” said Earthroots’ Josh Garfinkel.

Click here to read the full article.

Watch a piece on Global News here.


The Dirt on Dirt

Contact Josh Garfinkel at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / 416-599-0152 x15 for more info.

Celebrate the Marvellous Moraine!



Order your tickets here!

Report on mercury poisoning never shared, Grassy Narrows leaders say

Province says it did share the 2010 report. Others say it wasn’t shared because it supports Grassy Narrows’ claim that Ontario is negligent in caring for mercury poisoning survivors.

By: Tanya Talaga Staff Reporter, The Star. Published on Mon Jul 28 2014


The people living in a northern Ontario community near where a toxic dump of 10 tonnes of mercury occurred five decades ago are still suffering the neurological effects of mercury poisoning, and a report about the effects of the poisoning was never made public, First Nations leaders say.

For years, the residents of Grassy Narrows First Nation, a community of 1,500 outside Kenora, have complained about symptoms consistent with mercury poisoning after a paper mill dumped the mercury into the Wabigoon-English River system between 1962 and 1970.

A 2010 report, entitled “Literature Review: The Impact of Mercury Poisoning on Human Health,” was commissioned by the Mercury Disability Board, yet kept hidden from those involved, claims Roger Fobister Sr., chief of Grassy Narrows First Nation.

To read the full article, click here.

Stephen Lewis Speaks With Grassy Narrows

Water, Indigenous rights, justice for mercury survivors.

July 29th, 6:30 - 8:30 PM, Ryerson University


• Grassy Narrows Chief Roger Fobister

• Judy Da Silva - Grassy Narrows Clan Mother

• Leanne Betasamosake Simpson - Writer, educator and activist 

• Stephen Lewis  


Parties missing link between environment and economy, survey shows



Toronto, ON – The health of our environment underlies many of the concerns being debated in the Ontario provincial election, from future job growth to health care throughout our province. 

But no major party has fully embraced the connection between a healthy environment, a healthy economy and healthy people, according to a survey of party positions undertaken by 20 of Ontario’s leading environmental non-profit organizations.

“From the alarming decline in pollinators to the uncoordinated rush to develop numerous mines and other resource projects in one of our last great wilderness areas, there are big issues at stake in this election,” says Tim Gray of  Environmental Defence.


Green Prosperity Coalition: Ontario Election 2014

Green Prosperity is a joint effort by 20 of Ontario’s leading environmental organizations to put forward an action agenda for the province that we believe will help make Ontario a world leader in the new green economy.


Looking for info about your local candidates? Check out the Elections Ontario website here.