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Grassy Narrows, Wabaseemoong First Nations

July 27, 2021

Indigenous Group: Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek (Grassy Narrows First Nation); Wabaseemoong First Nation

Business: Reed Paper (defunct)

Issue: Mercury poisoning over a 50-year period resulting in 90% of the 1500 residents developing Minamata disease and the loss of their commercial fishery industry

Comment: Aug. 18, 2016: Toronto Star – When Reed Paper dumped 9,000 kg of mercury into the headwaters of the river that flows through Grassy Narrows First Nation residents’ lands and lives in the 1960’s, their once sustaining waterway was transformed into what some residents still see as a “river of poison.” Multiple federal and provincial governments have repeatedly denied any mercury poisoning at Grassy Narrows despite all the evidence to the contrary that the Wabigoon River was, and still is, contaminated.

In 2018, the Toronto Star reported that cord blood, blood and hair tests showed mercury exposure in Grassy Narrows. The results supported what people had been saying for decades. This data – collected eight years after the mercury was dumped into the river – sat in 91 banker’s boxes in Thunder Bay and Ottawa. Health Canada did send letters to some residents who had high levels of mercury, but a large number of residents had to fight Health Canada to receive their results. The Mercury Disability Board, established in the mid-eighties, turned down roughly 70% of all applicants for compensation.

Last Update: July 27, 2021: Toronto Star – The federal government committed $90M for a care home that will treat those poisoned by mercury.

The deal includes;

  • $68.9M in a trust for operational and servicing costs over 30 years and an agreement to periodically review the funding levels.
  • $19.5M previously announced for construction costs for the facility

See also Perspectives: ‘How much is an “Indian” life worth? Apparently not very much.” May 29, 2020