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Terry Graves: northern warrior dies

Terry Graves“Canada has lost a great eco-warrior, an unsung hero of the front line environmental movement - Terry Graves...friend, compatriot, father, husband. Terry was the co-founder of the Temagami Wilderness Society (now Earthroots, Toronto), in 1986. Terry, unlike many well-known activists, had candor, selfless passion and humility and fought the good fight for all the right reasons. Terry knew life and love and will be well missed.”

- Hap Wilson, Earthroots Director

The nemesis of three Ontario premiers and one Toronto mayor, northern environmental activist Terry Graves died last night after a five-year bout with cancer.

For almost three decades he fought for the environment, including leadership in two of Canada's biggest environmental battles: Temagami and the Adams Mine landfill.

"Graves was a 'fixer' like the George Clooney character in the film Michael Clayton," wrote Charlie Angus in his book Unlikely Radicals. "In a world of hard-asses, Graves was as hard as they come."

Graves made the Adams Mine Coalition presentation to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland in 2000. Toronto's bid for the 2008 Olympics died on impact. 

"I like a good fight," he once said.

This time it was a fight he didn't win.

Story courtesy of ottertooth.com

ACTION ALERT: Stand up for the Greenbelt and stop sprawl for good!

Decisions on the future of the Greenbelt are about to be made...

The Premier and Cabinet are about to make final decisions on the updated Oak Ridges Moraine, Greenbelt, Niagara Escarpment and Growth Plans.  They have a big choice to make; protect water sources, sensitive natural areas, and farmland in and around the Greenbelt or allow developers to pave over these areas for years to come.

Sign our petition here and urge the government to stand up for the Greenbelt and stop sprawl for good.  The decisions made now will have a lasting impact for our water, nature and communities.

Growth Plan Loopholes Allow Sprawl in Rural Communities

Oak Ridges Moraine sprawl natural system loss of wetlands forest and fields

Photo: Bill Lishman

A new Neptis Foundation report raises the alarm that major loopholes in the Government of Ontario’s proposed Growth Plan would make rural communities a focus of growth, wreaking havoc on the water, nature and communities across the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH). These changes would allow decades-old style of sprawl in over 400 rural towns, villages and hamlets – including many within the protected Greenbelt. Around 31,200 hectares of farmland, natural habitat and rural areas (equivalent in collective size to Mississauga) would come under threat from low-density, car-dependent development.

“This goes against the spirit and intent of the Province’s Growth Plan and its promotion of complete communities,” says Joyce Chau, Executive Director of EcoSpark. “These rural settlement areas were specifically excluded by the Province from the built boundary where growth should not occur because of a lack of servicing.”

The proposed Growth Plan creates a loophole where sprawling greenfield developments could be manipulated to count as intensification. The intent of the Growth Plan is to direct major growth to areas with existing roads, sewers and other major infrastructure in the GGH.

Read more...

Ontario ‘completely committed’ to mercury cleanup at Grassy Narrows

First Nations chief says Premier Kathleen Wynne has promised action and “wants to get the ball rolling.”

Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister Sr. Fobister has been fighting to have the mercury-contamination of his people addressed for more than 40 years, after a Dryden paper plant dumped 10 tonnes of mercury into the English-Wabigoon River system between 1962 and 1970.

Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister Sr. Fobister has been fighting to have the mercury-contamination of his people addressed for more than 40 years, after a Dryden paper plant dumped 10 tonnes of mercury into the English-Wabigoon River system between 1962 and 1970.  (TODD KOROL / TORONTO STAR FILE PHOTO)  

By JAYME POISSON News reporter
DAVID BRUSER News Reporter

 

Nearly five decades after mercury was dumped in the river upstream from their home, the people of Grassy Narrows First Nation have received a clear provincial commitment to clean up the potent neurotoxin that has been making them sick.

Environment Minister Glen Murray and Indigenous Relations Minister David Zimmer said in a statement Monday they were “completely committed” to finding areas near Grassy Narrows contaminated with mercury and creating a plan to clean it up. That includes a “full and rigorous” assessment of the site of the old paper mill upstream where the Star recently found mercury-contaminated soil.

“Mercury contamination has had a profound impact on the people of Grassy Narrows First Nation and Wabaseemoong (White dog) Independent Nations, and has to be properly addressed,” the ministers said.

“We are completely committed to working with all partners to identify all potentially contaminated sites, and to creating and implementing a comprehensive remediation action plan for the English-Wabigoon River (system).”

Scientists are ready to get to work on the northern Ontario watershed this spring, as soon as weather permits.

The province’s commitment follows a Star investigation that probed the impact of the poisoning and decades-long lack of action by government.

Late last week, Premier Kathleen Wynne met with Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister Sr. and environmentalist David Suzuki, who has been calling for a cleanup of the river system.

Fobister said Wynne told him the old mill site, and the river, would be cleaned. “She wants to get the ball rolling and get the work budget in place and get this thing done,” he said.

Fobister, who called Monday’s commitment “historic,” has been fighting to have the mercury-contamination of his people addressed for more than 40 years, after a Dryden paper plant dumped 10 tonnes of mercury into the English-Wabigoon River system between 1962 and 1970. The site of the plant, now under different ownership, is about 100 kilometres upstream from Grassy Narrows.

Coincidentally, Fobister, 61, is travelling to Minimata, Japan, on Tuesday to commemorate the 60th anniversary of an industrial mercury disaster that began poisoning the Japanese in the 1950s. A photograph of his brother protesting over the mercury-contamination of Grassy Narrows hangs in a museum there.

Monday’s joint statement from Murray and Zimmer said that, in light of new information of potential mercury contamination, the province is now conducting a “full and rigorous mercury contamination assessment on the entire mill site.” (A spokesperson for Domtar, the company that now owns the land, said the company has also volunteered to pay for some additional sampling by independent experts.)

Last month, the Star published a story detailing how two reporters and volunteers from environmental group Earthroots dug holes in a clearing behind the old mill and found significantly higher-than-normal levels of mercury — nearly 80 times the level expected to be found in soil from that region of the province. The spot where the Star found contaminated soil is near where a former mill worker said he was part of a crew that “haphazardly” buried drums filled with salt and mercury in the 1970s.

The province says it is taking its lead on cleanup efforts from a team of scientists, led by mercury expert John Rudd, who have been advising Grassy Narrows.

Read the full story in The Star.

Earthroots helped Grassy Narrows achieve a major milestone!

Ontario commits to cleanup of mercury contamination near Grassy Narrows First Nation

Cabinet ministers promise First Nations-led cleanup effort of decades-old mercury contamination

By Jody Porter, CBC News

Research released in September 2016 shows more than 90 per cent of the population at Grassy Narrows First Nation is experiencing symptoms of mercury poisoning.

Research released in September 2016 shows more than 90 per cent of the population at Grassy Narrows First Nation is experiencing symptoms of mercury poisoning. (Jody Porter/CBC)

The Ontario government is promising to find and remediate all the mercury contamination that continues to poison people at Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong First Nations in the northwestern corner of the province.

"We are completely committed to working with all partners to identify all potentially contaminated sites, and to creating and implementing a comprehensive remediation action plan for the English Wabigoon River," said a statement issued Monday from the minister of environment and the minister of Indigenous relations and reconciliation.

The announcement came after a meeting on Friday between Premier Kathleen Wynne, Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister and environmentalist David Suzuki.

Mercury was dumped in the river that flows through the two northwestern Ontario First Nations by Reed Paper, upstream in Dryden, Ont., in the 1960s and early 1970s. Recent scientific reports show the water is still contaminated.

More than 90 per cent of the population at Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong First Nations show signs of mercury poisoning, according toresearch released in September by Japanese experts who have been studying the health of people there for decades.

'Historic commitment'

"I welcome this historic commitment and I am eager to work to make this promise a reality so that my people can enjoy our culture and our homeland in health again without fear of an invisible poison," Fobister said.

"When our fish are safe to eat, we will know that his promise has been kept."

The First Nations have been calling for a cleanup for more than 40 years and were recently joined by some of the world's leading scientific experts on mercury remediation.

Read the full story and listen to Up North - Province commits to cleaning up decades-old mercury in Grassy Narrows here.

Evidence of poisonous mercury dump found upstream from Grassy Narrows

Earthroots volunteers find contaminated soil in area of reported mercury dump

Gord Miller, former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario and Earthroots Chair, calls on the government for a comprehensive survey of the entire former mill site for mercury contamination.

 

Toronto – Earthroots has found evidence of a poisonous mercury dump behind the Dryden paper mill, upstream from the Grassy Narrows First Nation where many people suffer from mercury poisoning. A soil sample from the site collected by Earthroots volunteers contains hundreds of times the level of mercury found in a nearby uncontaminated site. The location is within the circle drawn on a map by Kas Glowacki, a former mill worker, to show where he buried 50 barrels of mercury and salt haphazardly in a pit behind the mill in 1972.  Mercury is a potent neuro-toxin that damages the brain and nervous system.

"The presence of a mercury hot spot confirms the need for a comprehensive survey of the entire former mill site for mercury contamination sites. Any such mercury deposits represent an ongoing threat to human health and the ecosystem," said Gord Miller, Board Chair of Earthroots, an environmental group, and former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.

This key evidence comes to light shortly after the Wynne government told the legislature on November 23rd that “We have completed very extensive tests... and found there are no barrels buried and there is no source [of mercury].”  Grassroots volunteers for Earthroots, an environmental group, found the contaminated soil in a weekend excursion using a hand held metal detector. 

"The government has dismissed this eye-witness report of an improper toxic dump, but we know a proper site investigation has not been done if a small group of untrained volunteers finds contaminated soil on a weekend survey," said Gord Miller.  "It's time to end this shameful saga and finally do the right thing by cleaning up the English-Wabigoon River and its watershed once and for all."

Read more...

Mercury-tainted soil found upstream from Grassy Narrows First Nation

Star reporters and volunteers from Earthroots took soil samples from behind an old paper mill, 100 kilometres upstream from Grassy Narrows, which revealed significantly elevated levels of mercury.

 

By JAYME POISSON News reporter
DAVID BRUSER News Reporter

 

DRYDEN, ONT.—The Star and volunteers from an environmental group have found mercury-contaminated soil upstream from Grassy Narrows First Nation.

Over several weeks this past fall, first the volunteers from Earthroots and then reporters from the Star dug a dozen holes and took soil samples from a site behind an old paper mill, then had them analyzed by a lab. Soil from three holes contained significantly higher-than-normal levels of mercury.

“There is more than enough of a smoking gun to require a full investigation,” said Gord Miller, Ontario’s former environmental commissioner and the chair of the Earthroots group.

When presented with the findings, the province told the Star it takes them “seriously” and will work with the current landowner to determine if more tests are needed.

Mercury contamination, a serious health risk, has plagued the indigenous community in northern Ontario for decades. Dangerous and persistently high levels of mercury in the sediment and fish in the river system suggest there is an ongoing source, but the province has denied the possibility that the site of the old mill — 100 kilometres upstream from Grassy Narrows — could be responsible.

The samples were taken from an area circled on a map by retired mill worker Kas Glowacki, who said that in 1972 he was part of a group who “haphazardly” dumped drums filled with salt and mercury into a pit behind the mill.

Click here to watch the video and read the full article on The Star's website.

ADVISORY: Evidence of poisonous mercury dump found upstream from Grassy Narrows

Toronto – Earthroots has found evidence of a poisonous mercury dump behind the Dryden paper mill, upstream from the Grassy Narrows First Nation where many people suffer from mercury poisoning. A soil sample from the site collected by Earthroots volunteers contains hundreds of times the level of mercury found in a nearby uncontaminated site. The location is within the circle drawn on a map by Kas Glowacki, a former mill worker, to show where he buried 50 barrels of mercury and salt haphazardly in a pit behind the mill in 1972. Mercury is a potent neuro-toxin that damages the brain and nervous system. This key evidence comes to light shortly after the Wynne government told the legislature on November 23rd that “We have completed very extensive tests... and found there are no barrels buried and there is no source [of mercury].” Grassroots volunteers for Earthroots, an environmental group, found the contaminated soil in a weekend excursion using a hand held metal detector. 

PRESS CONFERENCE:  Earthroots will reveal how they found mercury contaminated soil behind the Dryden mill where a former worker reports burying 50 toxic barrels.

WHERE:  Queen’s Park Media Studio, Toronto, ON.

WHEN:  Friday January 13th, 11:30 AM

WHO:  Gord Miller, former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario and current Earthroots Board Chair.

Contact: 647-550-7882

High resolution photos and B-roll available. #FreeGrassy

Grassy Narrows chief urges Trudeau to cleanup mercury in river

A clear cut section of forest is seen on Grassy Narrows First Nation territory near Dryden, Ont., in this 2006 handout image. (HO/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

GLORIA GALLOWAY

OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

Published Sunday, Jan. 01, 2017 8:14PM EST

Last updated Sunday, Jan. 01, 2017 8:16PM EST

 

Responsibility for the mercury problems straddles provincial and federal jurisdictions and, so far, the province of Ontario has borne much of the blame for the fact that the contamination has persisted in the Wabigoon River for six decades. But David Sone of Earthroots, a conservation advocacy group, says there are at least three reasons for the federal government to get involved.

“There is at least still some [federal] responsibility for fisheries where they are part of a cultural fishery” like the one at Grassy Narrows, said Mr. Sone. “There is a responsibility for the health of First Nations. And there is the broader treaty and fiduciary responsibility for the well-being of First Nations.”

 

The chief of a small Northern Ontario First Nation whose people are being poisoned by mercury from a defunct paper mill is urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to engage the federal government in the cleanup of the river that is the source of the community’s fish.

Simon Fobister, the Chief of the Grassy Narrows First Nation, has written twice to Mr. Trudeau – in May and in September – and Mr. Fobister’s predecessor, Roger Fobister, wrote to the Prime Minister in March. All of the letters told Mr. Trudeau: “We invite you to visit our community to announce alongside us that the mercury in our river system, our source of life, will finally be cleaned up.”

The chief says he has received no response to those invitations, though the Prime Minister’s Office acknowledged to The Globe and Mail that it had received them. A spokeswoman for Mr. Trudeau pointed out that a representative of the Indigenous Affairs department visited the community in June along with provincial ministers.

Many First Nations in Canada are coping with the negative environmental consequences of development on or near their territories, but few have endured hardships like those suffered in Grassy Narrows, where 90 per cent of residents are showing signs of mercury poisoning. 

Read the full article in the The Globe and Mail here.

Awenda Provincial Park Coyote/Wolf Family Shot Dead and Abandoned

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Niagara Falls – Two wild canids were found shot to death and dumped in the snow just outside Awenda Provincial Park last week, where hunting is illegal.

The animals were identified as a female adult and female pup of the year. Without genetic testing, determining if they were eastern coyotes or threatened Algonquin wolves is impossible. Upon finding the two animals the hiker notified the Ontario Provincial Police, who are now investigating the incident with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. Last week, the same hiker found three canids inside the park boundary shot to death. When he returned to the site several hours later, the hiker found the bodies were removed by person(s) unknown.

The hiker noted that the way the coyotes or wolves were killed is referred to as ‘rot shot’ – gunfire directed at the side of an animal, used to deliver an excruciatingly painful slow death.

“The number of animals, their ages, and the small scale of the region in which they were found indicates they were probably a family pack,” says Lesley Sampson, Founding Executive Director of Canada Watch Canada. “Coyotes and wolves are highly social, family-oriented keystone species that manage Ontario’s diverse ecosystems. The fragmenting of a coyote or wolf family can have a drastic and detrimental impact on the stability of the family structure, while disrupting the prey/predator relationships throughout their home range.”

Read more...

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Grassy Narrows in the news!

Ontario vows to clean up Grassy Narrows river system

By DAVID BRUSER News Reporter
JAYME POISSON News reporter
Thu., Nov. 24, 2016

Ontario’s environment minister is promising to clean up the river system near Grassy Narrows First Nation “to the satisfaction of the chief and the health of the people.”

The Star reported Tuesday that a comprehensive analysis of provincial fish data conducted by the University of Waterloo’s research chair in biology, Dr. Heidi Swanson, revealed that the walleye eaten by the people of Grassy Narrows are the most mercury-contaminated in the province.

Read the full article in The Star.


 

Promise to clean up waters at Grassy Narrows is long overdue: Editorial

Fifty-four years after mercury was first dumped into the river system near Grassy Narrows in northern Ontario, poisoning the fish and any person or creature that ate them, Environment Minister Glen Murray is finally promising to clean up the water.

It’s about time.

Study after study has shown that generations of people from the Grassy Narrows and Whitedog First Nations have been poisoned as the provincial government mishandled the file and obfuscated the truth.

Read the full article in The Star.


 

Grassy Narrows residents eating fish with highest mercury levels in province

By JAYME POISSON News reporter
DAVID BRUSER News Reporter
Wed., Nov. 23, 2016
 

For the residents of Grassy Narrows who have fished Clay Lake and the river downstream for generations, walleye is a dietary staple.

Now a comprehensive analysis of provincial data conducted for the Star confirms what has long been suspected: the walleye they are eating are the most mercury-contaminated in the province.

“It’s overwhelming for me,” said Ryan Kokokopenace, 36, when told of the Star’s finding. Kokokopenace and his family fish for walleye in the Wabigoon River, which is connected to Clay Lake. “It’s been our way of life for so long. I’ve been doing it since I was 3.”

The mercury in an average meal of walleye from Clay Lake is 15 times the daily tolerable intake limit for adults, and about 40 times the limit for women of child-bearing age, pregnant women and children.

Read the full article in The Star.

 

Will you speak out for a stronger, bigger Greenbelt?

 

It's time to Grow Our Greenbelt

 

Risky loopholes or a lasting legacy?  You decide.  

The future of the Greenbelt is being considered now!  

Add your voice by October 31st to protect a stronger, bigger Greenbelt.

 

If you care about strong protection for Ontario's green spaces and wildlife habitat, clean water, walkable communities and access to local food, then you won't want to miss your chance to be part of this historic review process.