Chief Rudy Turtle wants $89-million to build a mercury treatment facility for his people in Grassy Narrows.
The problem, he says, is Indigenous Services.
“I’m not overly confident. But I’m hoping that it can be done,” Turtle told the committee.
“A generation has gone by already and many of these people have passed away or are passing away. And that’s why would like to get this facility done.”
On May 29, Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan arrived in Grassy Narrows to sign an agreement.
But in the end there was no deal.
O’Regan told the same committee earlier this week that he spoke to Turtle on the phone the evening before his arrival.
“When we spoke the night before we were in agreement on all of these issues. When I arrived in the community they had changed,” O’Regan told the committee.
The chief doesn’t remember it that way.
“I don’t know where he got the impression that I was going to sign the papers when I clearly told his team that I have to take this home for approval.
“I just can’t say yes,” Turtle said.
Turtle told the committee that he wanted the $89 million put into a trust fund in case a change of government brings a change of heart for helping people in Grassy Narrows.
But bureaucrats for Indigenous services said that is now how funding agreement have been done in the past.
“For the minister to expect Chief Turtle to sign something when they haven’t worked out the logistics of the funding, I think it was incredibly naïve,” Conservative MP Cathy McLeod told O’Regan.
Everyone on the committee agreed that the mercury poisoning in Grassy Narrows was a tragedy.
NDP MP Niki Ashton put a motion forward to have the funding immediately put into a trust.
It was denied.
“It’s very concerning we have two weeks left of Parliament, that we’re heading into a federal election. And that for 500 days essentially and many more years before that, Grassy Narrows has been living a nightmare,” said Ashton.
The United Nations Rapporteur for Human Rights and Toxics Baskut Tuncak released his preliminary report after touring Canada for two weeks.
(UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights and Toxics Baskut Tuncak in Ottawa. Photo: Todd Lamirande/APTN)
He found it troubling that mercury poisoning in Grassy Narrows has been known for 50 years yet little remediation has been done to date.
“In particular the inaction from many decades really leaves in my mind questions about discrimination and to what extent that community and other communities in Canada are protected from discrimination,” he said.
According to the province of Ontario, it is still finding high levels of Mercury found at the site of the pulp mill in Dryden, Ont.
It’s unknown whether this is making it’s way downstream to Grassy Narrows.
Needless to say chief Turtle finds it very concerning.