- Published on Friday, 08 June 2012 11:36
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ontario government refuses to acknowledge Minimata Disease, repeats the mistakes of the past
Toronto – Today Grassy Narrows people, accompanied by hundreds of supporters and traditional drummers, will deploy 15,000 square feet of blue fabric in the streets to create a wild river flowing to Queen’s Park, where they will demand long overdue justice for their people and protection for the waters and forests on which they depend. Fifty years after Ontario began allowing 10 tonnes of toxic mercury to be dumped into Grassy Narrows’ river, the McGuinty Government still refuses to acknowledge even one case of methyl mercury poisoning, known as Minamata Disease. A newly translated report by renowned Japanese mercury expert Dr. Harada, released on Monday, found that "[i]t is an undoubtable fact that Minamata disease occurred in [Grassy Narrows and Whitedog], based on our long-term investigation result."
In April 2010, when new evidence of persistent Minamata Disease in Grassy Narrows came to light, Premier McGuinty told reporters that “[w]hat we do have is a heavy responsibility to take a good, long, hard look at this new report and find out exactly what the story is.” Instead of meeting that responsibility, Ontario released a plan for another decade of industrial clearcut logging on Grassy Narrows territory against their will - a practice that has been found to dramatically increase mercury levels in water and fish.
VISUAL: RIVER RUN MARCH AND RALLY. Friday June 8, Noon.
Where: Grange Park (behind the AGO, on Beverley South of Dundas).
Destination: Arriving at Queen’s Park around 1:15 PM for speeches and demands.
Speakers: Grassy Narrows Chief Fobister, Wabauskang Chief Cameron, Grassy Narrows mother Judy Da Silva and youth walker Edmond Jack, Chief Fobister, Bruce Cox (Greenpeace ED), Joanne Webb (CUPE), Maryam Adrangi (Council of Candians), and Nanky Rai (Health for All).
"Our people are still suffering from this poison in the water, but most receive no support from the government. All people diagnosed by the Japanese experts must be fully compensated, and the government must respect our decisions on our territory so that we can recover from the devastating impacts of mercury pollution on our health, our culture, and our livelihood." said Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister.
“The government and industry take away our forests and give us back disease and sickness and death,” said Judy Da Silva, a Grassy Narrows mother. “If McGuinty stood in our shoes he would understand why we say ‘no’ to the pollution and industrial logging of our homeland.”
Grassy Narrows, and their supporters, are demanding from government:
RESPONSIBILITY: Acknowledge mercury poisoning in Grassy Narrows, apologize, and accept responsibility to fix what was broken.
SAFETY: Fund a permanent Grassy Narrows run environmental health monitoring center. Strengthen the Health Canada mercury safety guideline to protect all people.
COMPENSATION: Compensate all people diagnosed by the Japanese doctors, and retroactively index the compensation to inflation.
RESTORATION: Clean and restore the English-Wabigoon river system. Stop the mills from polluting the water and air.
JUSTICE: Restore Grassy Narrows control over Grassy Narrows Territory. End destructive industrial logging on Grassy Narrows Territory.
For more information go to: FreeGrassy.org
High resolution photos, and video available: 647-783-3552
Thirty-four Grassy Narrows people traveled 2,000 km to Toronto by foot, train, and bus to demand action on mercury poisoning and land rights.
Between 1962 and 1970 a Dryden paper mill dumped 10 tonnes of mercury into the Wabigoon River, a practice that was allowed by the province. The people of Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows), Wabaseemoong (Whitedog), and some members of Wabauskang who lived at Quibell were downstream and were hurt by the health, social, and economic impacts of this poison. Mercury levels in Grassy Narrows fish have yet to return to safe levels.
Doctor Harada’s newly translated report found that 59% of 160 people examined in Grassy Narrows and Whitedog First Nations were impacted by mercury poisoning. 44% of people aged 21-41 were impacted, even though they were born after dumping was banned. The results of his study give the most authoritative scientific assessment of the impacts of mercury on the people of Grassy Narrows and Whitedog.
Three quarters of the people Dr. Harada diagnosed as impacted by mercury in Grassy Narrows and White Dog were not receiving any support from the Mercury Disability Board established in 1986. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that accumulates in the food chain and whose health impacts include loss of coordination, numbness in the extremities, tremors, loss of balance, tunnel vision, and speech impediments. Even those with the most severe symptoms receive a maximum of $250 - $800 per month, an amount worth half what it was in 1986 because it is not indexed to inflation.
Massive public support has accompanied the community on their journey to Toronto, with over 50 civil society groups supporting Grassy Narrows’ call for action from the government of Ontario. The Assembly of First Nations, Chiefs of Ontario, Grand Council of Treaty Three, Amnesty International Canada, Council of Canadians, CUPE Ontario, Greenpeace Canada, KAIROS, RNAO, OSSTF, CAW National, PSAC Ontario, and the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop, among many others, have all backed Grassy Narrows.
Despite years of harm to the people and lands of Grassy Narrows caused by decisions imposed from outside, and an unambiguous Ontario Superior Court decision (Keewatin lands) confirming the province has no jurisdiction to allocate their lands to industry, the provincial government has yet to acknowledge that the people of Grassy Narrows have the right to manage their own resources. The province has recently released a clearcut logging plan in Grassy Narrows’ territory for the next decade.
The Grassy Narrows River Run is endorsed by:
Earth Justice Action
No One Is Illegal
Christian Peacemaker Teams
CUPE 3903 FNSWG
National Indigenous Anglican Bishop
Anglican Indigenous Network
Student Christian Movement of Canada
Health for All
Hamilton-Wentworth Elementary Teachers’ Local (ETFO)
Canadian Federation of Students Ontario
Science for Peace
Rainforest Action Network
Council of Canadians
Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN)
Native Women's Resource Centre of Toronto
Indigenous Environmental Network
The Boreal Forest Network
Winnipeg Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement
RNAO – Registered Nurses Association of Ontario
Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network -LACSN
The Public Studio