Grassy Narrows mothers invite McGuinty to fish fry at Queen’s Park


Will Premier join Grassy Narrows for lunch at the Chef’s Table?

Toronto - Grassy Narrows mothers are challenging Premier McGuinty to eat their local fish at a traditional fish fry on an open wood fire at Queens Park.The people of Grassy Narrows are still suffering from the debilitating health impacts of mercury poison fifty years after a Dryden mill began dumping 10 tonnes of the neurotoxin into Grassy Narrows’ English-Wabigoon River. Some Grassy Narrows mothers report delayed development, cerebral palsy, seizures, and other illnesses in their children – symptoms linked to congenital mercury poisoning. Indigenous Grassy Narrows community members are travelling 2,000 km to Toronto by foot, train, and bus to release a newly translated health study on their community by renowned Japanese mercury expert Dr. Harada.

In April 2010, when Harada’s 2005 report was released in English, Premier McGuinty told reporters that “What 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.”

FISH FRY. Wednesday June 6, Noon.

What: Grassy Narrows mothers challenge Premier McGuinty to eat their local fish at a traditional fish fry on an open wood fire.

Where: Queens Park south lawn.

Endorsed by: Jamie Kennedy of Jamie Kennedy Kitchens.

In 2006 an independent Grassy Narrows fisherman was convicted in a Kenora court on one count of unlawfully selling fish tainted by mercury contamination, contrary to the Ontario Fish Inspection Act.  MNR conservation officers from the Kenora District discovered the nets set in Grassy Narrows Lake, near the community, on Sept. 4, 2005.  Forensic tests on the fish, done at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in Winnipeg, revealed mercury levels of 1.0 parts per million, twice the acceptable level of 0.5 parts per million. (Kenora Daily Miner, 2006)


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Renowned Japanese mercury expert Dr. Harada first visited the Indigenous communities of Grassy  Narrows and Whitedog in 1975.  He found people with mercury levels over 3 times the Health Canada limit in Grassy Narrows, and 7 times the limit in Whitedog.  When he returned in 2004 he found that 43% of his original Grassy Narrows patients were dead, including all those who had mercury levels above the Health Canada guidelines in 1975.

Between 1962 and 1970 the Dryden mill dumped 10 tonnes of mercury into the Wabigoon River, with the province's permission.  The people of Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows), Wabaseemoong (Whitedog), and some members of Wabauskang First Nation who lived at Quibell were downstream and were hurt by the health, social, and economic impacts of this poison.   Overnight unemployment in Grassy Narrows skyrocketed, a sacred food staple was lost, and the source of disturbing neurological health conditions became apparent.  Mercury levels in Grassy Narrows fish have yet to return to safe levels.

A 2005 study of Grassy Narrows and Whitedog people by Dr. Harada found that Health Canada safety guidelines are too weak to protect people from the cumulative long-term health impacts of low level mercury exposure, which is now ubiquitous worldwide due to industrial pollution from sources such as chemical plants, coal burning power plants, and incinerators.

In 2010 the elderly Dr. Harada returned for his final visit to Grassy Narrows and Whitedog.  He examined 160 people of all ages for the health impacts of mercury poisoning, something Health Canada has not done in over a decade.  The results of his study give the most current and authoritative scientific assessment of the impacts of mercury on the people of Grassy Narrows and Whitedog.  The report will be released in English for the first time at the press conference on June 4.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin which accumulates in the food chain and whose health impacts include tunnel vision, loss of coordination, numbness in the extremities, tremors, loss of balance, and speech impediments.