‘Funding is not an obstacle’: Marc Miller pledges to build mercury treatment facility

Grassy Narrows
An artists rendition of the mercury facility the community of Grassy Narrows would like to build. Photo courtesy: Grassy Narrows.

Brett Forester
The federal government has agreed to most of the demands for a treatment centre for Grassy Narrow First Nation but there are still obstacles in the way of what the community is looking for says Chief Rudy Turtle.

According to Turtle, the “long term operation” of the treatment facility remains a sticking point in the discussion.

Grassy Narrows estimates it will take $88.7 million to build and maintain the facility. They asked for a trust fund for this to be set up.

During question period Monday, Eric Melillo, the MP for Kenora, Ont., where Grassy Narrows is located, delivered on a vow to hold the Trudeau government accountable for promising to build a mercury treatment facility for those afflicted with mercury poisoning in the community.

“The people of Grassy Narrows First Nation, in my riding of Kenora, have been suffering with the effects of mercury contamination for decades,” he told the house. “In 2017 this government promised a treatment centre to support the community. It is now nearly 2020, Mr. Speaker.

“And we have still seen no action.”

Grassy Narrows

(The Conservative MP for Kenora Eric Melillo. Photo: APTN File)

Melillo demanded an answer from Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller on when the government will “finally deliver on their promise” and build the treatment facility.

In response, Miller commended Melillo for his “advocacy.”

Miller said he was glad to have met with Grassy Narrows’s Chief Rudy Turtle last week during the Assembly of First Nation Special Chiefs Assembly in Ottawa.

“We had a good, productive conversation,” where the government reiterated its commitment to building the facility, Miller said.

“Funding is not an obstacle.”

Miller added that he plans to have an update “in short order.”

It’s not clear what this update will be.

In 2017, the Ontario government pledged $85 million to remediate the Wabigoon and English rivers.

Grassy Narrows

(Rudy Turtle answering questions at a news conference in Ottawa last week. Photo: APTN File)

Turtle refused go into detail regarding the type and amount of funding the federal government pledged after his conversation with Miller last week.

Earlier this year Turtle was dissatisfied with the federal government’s approach, so he ran for a seat in the House of Commons against Melillo and Liberal incumbent Robert Nault.

Both Turtle and the experienced Liberal candidate lost to the young Conservative politician.

After winning, Melillo said he was looking forward to advocating for the community of Grassy Narrows.

However, Turtle said he’s working mainly with the NDP on this issue, and that he and Melillo have not spoken about the next steps to get the facility built.

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