(Chief Rudy Turtle at Friday’s announcement in Grassy Narrows. Photo: Brittany Hobson/APTN)
Community members in Grassy Narrows First Nation receiving mercury disability payments will soon be retroactively compensated for more than 30 years worth of compensation.
Ontario’s Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford made the announcement at a community feast in Grassy Narrows on Friday afternoon.
“Benefit payments will now and going forward be indexed the rate of inflation,” he told the crowd of approximately 40.
Payments have been frozen since 1985 when the Mercury Disability Board was started.
The board was put into place to provide compensation after a nearby paper and pulp mill contaminated the community’s water supply in the 60’s and 70’s.
Approximately 300 people are receiving payments according Judy Da Silva, the environmental health coordinator for the community.
Payments have stayed at $250 to $800 since the board was established.
During the 1960s, a chemical plant in Dryden dumped more than nine tons of mercury into the area’s water system.
People in the community have been living with mercury poisoning ever since.
Grassy Narrows Chief Rudy Turtle welcomed Friday’s announcement.
He hopes this will be the first of many changes when it comes to mercury disability care.
“I’m hoping this new Ontario government will help us. You know, we set this point system so that it makes it easier for the people of Grassy Narrows to receive these things. These benefits,” said Turtle.
Currently a point system is in place to determine whether community members can qualify for compensation. There are seven different categories of symptoms and a scale to determine how severe the symptoms are.
Turtle said he hopes to see the point system removed and everyone in the community of approximately 1,000 will eventually receive compensation.
The communities of Wabaseemoong Independent Nations also receive compensation through the Mercury Disability Board.
“The requests from people of both communities receiving these benefits have asked if the rates can be increased, finally comes to a reality,” Chief John Paishk said in a statement.
Payments should be adjusted starting next month.