Amnesty International is launching a new advocacy campaign that is putting the international spotlight on Grassy Narrows, a community in Ontario that has been dealing with the catastrophic effects of mercury poisoning for half a century.
The letter writing campaign is being launched ahead of the global Human Rights Day in December.
Grassy Narrows First Nation is one of the 10 cases included in the organization’s Write for Rights event.
“I hope that the government hears these youth and what they’ve been saying. I hope the government hears that there are millions of people around the world watching what they’re doing when they violate the human rights of Indigenous children,” said Ana Collins, Amnesty International Canada’s Indigenous rights campaign advisor.
The people of Grassy Narrows have been dealing with decades of contaminated water after an old pulp mill dumped mercury into nearby rivers five decades ago.
The effects are still felt today.
Steve Fobister, who goes by Darwin, has been living with mercury-related illnesses since birth. He started having seizures when he was one and he also lives with mobility restrictions and a speech impairment.
He is only 22-years-old.
“It’s a thing I shouldn’t be dealing with when I’m that young. It’s not normal. I was having high fevers and today it’s still happening,” said Fobister.
“I can’t do things a normal kid can do.”
Fobister is the grandson of the community’s former chief Steve Fobister Sr., who spent his life fighting for a mercury treatment centre in Grassy Narrows.
It’s something the eldest Fobister wouldn’t see because he died in 2018.
Darwin continues that fight today.
“[My grandfather] told me not to stop fighting until we get our answers done,” said Darwin.
“No more mister denial and delay. That’s what I say to Justin Trudeau.”
The Trudeau government committed to building the centre two years ago, but to date nothing has been started.
During the recent election campaign, Trudeau again said he would help and that money was no issue.
Former Grassy Narrows chief Rudy Turtle ran in the federal election under the NDP banner in the hopes of going to Ottawa himself and demanding action for his community but lost out to Conservative Eric Melillo.
Melillo committed to working with Turtle and the community to get the services that people need.
Paris Meekis, a youth from Grassy Narrows, has this message for the federal government, “they’re interfering with our future generations.”
Meekis hopes future youth in her community will never have to feel the impacts of mercury poisoning.
Write for Rights events will be taking place across Canada from late November until mid-December.
For more information visit http://writeathon.ca/