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Grassy Narrows’ leaders want care facility for mercury victims

It’s not the first time the First Nation community has made this request. Top officials from both the provincial and federal governments say they are taking the request seriously.

By DAVID BRUSER News Reporter
JAYME POISSON Investigative Reporter

 

Several other organizations, including the David Suzuki Foundation, Amnesty International and Earthroots, also threw their support behind Grassy Narrows’ request for a mercury home in an open letter to Wynne and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Said Gord Miller, Chair of the Board for Earthroots and former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario: “This preventable tragedy has gone on far too long. All possible measures to help the people of Grassy Narrows and mitigate the impacts must be pursued.”

 

Bill Fobister Sr.’s granddaughter, Betty, is forced to use a wheelchair and is unable to speak.

The 25-year-old has qualified for compensation from a disability board that gives money to people with symptoms consistent with mercury poisoning.

But there is no specialized care for her in Grassy Narrows First Nation, where she is from, and which has a long legacy of mercury contamination, Bill Fobister said. So his granddaughter lives with a foster family in Fort Frances, Ont., a town 280 kilometres from her parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins and culture.

“We don’t have a place for her,” Fobister Sr. said. “I beg the . . . government to make a commitment that they will do something (in) our community for the sake of those who are suffering.”

Fobister and other Grassy Narrows leaders are in Toronto this week to ask provincial and federal officials to help build a care home for survivors of the industrial pollution that has sickened the community for decades. It is not the first time they have come from northwestern Ontario with this request.

“It’s just like when a dog chases its tail around and around but never catches up . . . and this is what’s been happening with our demand for this mercury home and treatment centre,” Chief Simon Fobister said Tuesday.

Top officials from the provincial and federal governments said they are taking the request seriously, will be meeting with Grassy Narrows representatives Wednesday, and want to get something done.

“We will be there for them for the long run to support some appropriate facility once we have more information,” said federal Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott after a cabinet meeting Tuesday. The federal government has already committed to a feasibility study of a care home. “Going forward, we will do the right thing.”

Read the full article in The Star.