Today, the NDP critic for Aboriginal Affairs, France Gélinas, took Premier Wynne to task for the failure of the Liberal government to clean up mercury contamination of the English-Wabigoon River in Grassy Narrows and to provide safe drinking water; compelling the community to ask the United Nations for help.
“New Democrats have repeatedly raised in this Chamber the ongoing and appalling mercury exposure experienced by the Grassy Narrows First Nation,” Gélinas said. “In 2012, the Premier said she would rebuild the relationship with the community, yet in 2014, elder Steve Fobister, the former chief of Grassy Narrows First Nation, went on a hunger strike right here on the front lawn. Then again, this government said they would act, but right now, as we speak, the community feels that they have to appeal to the United Nations for help.”
Since Premier Kathleen Wynne was the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs in 2012, she has promised the Liberal government would clean up the English-Wabigoon River. Despite repeated promises, and meetings, the Liberal government has failed to take action on a full clean-up of mercury contamination of the river.
“My question is simple,” Gélinas said. “When will the people of Grassy Narrows have safe drinking water?”
In its appeal to the United Nations, the Grassy Narrows community said that mercury persists to this day in river sediment, and continues to be taken into the food chain.
“It has been half a century. The health effect of mercury poisoning is well known. It is horrific and it is affecting so many people in Grassy Narrows. The residents of Grassy Narrows are Ontarians like you and me. They deserve safe drinking water. They should not have to go to Geneva, Switzerland, and talk to the United Nations to gain respect for this basic human right,” Gélinas said.
“When will this government clean up the English-Wabigoon River? When will they assist the people who live with the effects of mercury poisoning, and when will they provide the good people of Grassy Narrows with safe drinking water?”