Grassy Narrows members demand compensation because of mercury poisoning

Members of Grassy Narrows First Nation took to Ontario’s legislature Thursday to demand compensation for everyone in the community after suffering through decades of mercury poisoning.

Vicky Assin and her niece Elsie made the 1,800 km trek from their home along with 50 other members of the community.

Assin said they went to Toronto to raise awareness of the poisoning that’s happening to their people, “it’s incurable and, its a sentence for life,” she said.

In 2021, Grassy Narrows signed a $90 million agreement with the federal government to build a long-term care home for residents living with mercury poisoning.

Shovels are expected to be in the ground in 2024.

“That doesn’t go far enough,” said Chief Randy Fobister, “the government needs to look to the future for the community, the government is the one that caused this from the beginning, also the companies.”

He said it’s time for the land to heal, so the people can heal.

Grassy Narrows is asking for everyone in the community to be fairly compensated for the mercury crisis, end mining and logging on their territory and support the community and way of life prior to the mercury poisoning.

The community is suing Ontario for handing out exploratory permits without its consent.

Grassy Narrows members have had to live with mercury poisoning in its water for the past 60 years. Approximately 90 per cent of community members suffer from effects of the poisoning, which was caused by a paper mill dumping nine tonnes of mercury into the river water.

The group was joined by close to 2,000 supporters. Following the speeches, the crowd marched down Bay Street to the Indigenous Services Canada regional office with signs, banners and hand drums.

Toronto resident, Betsy Carter first became aware of the issues in Grassy Narrows two years ago, she said it should never had happened, that’s why she walked in support.

“It should have been cleaned up by now,” she said. “People should have been taken care of and given the care they needed, and be paid back for everything they’ve lost.”

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