Following the release of a report from the David Suzuki Foundation on the federal government’s work to deliver drinking water to First Nations in Ontario, the province’s Premier Kathleen Wynne, along with Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Glen Murray, met with Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister and David Suzuki.
Grassy Narrows’ First Nation community has garnered ongoing media attention for the impacts of the mercury contamination in their watershed. What follows is a statement released by Minister Murray and David Zimmer, Ontario’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.
“Mercury contamination has had a profound impact on the people of Grassy Narrows First Nation and Wabaseemoong (Whitedog) Independent Nations, and has to be properly addressed. On behalf of the Province of Ontario, we are completely committed to working with all partners to identify all potentially contaminated sites, and to creating and implementing a comprehensive remediation action plan for the English Wabigoon River. We are addressing mercury contamination in the river by collaborating with the First Nations and other partners on solutions based on the best available science and research. We have also been actively engaging the Federal Government and look forward to their contributions and assistance.
Right now, we are in the middle of a two year process designed by Dr. John Rudd, who leads the expert team that is advising Grassy Narrows and is funded by the province. This work will inform the extent of the mercury contamination in the river and determine which remediation options may be the most appropriate for each site, including enhanced natural recovery and capping.
We are committed to ensuring the First Nations’ rights and interests are at the forefront of decision making around options and implementation. As this is the home of the people of Grassy Narrows First Nation, the Wabaseemoong Independent Nations and other communities, their input into which remediation options for the contaminated sites are selected and implemented is necessary, as there may be benefits and risks associated with each of these site specific interventions.
New information regarding potential mercury contamination at the Domtar Industrial Site in Dryden has also come forward in the last few weeks. We are now conducting a full and rigorous mercury contamination assessment on the entire mill site, working closely with First Nations and Domtar. The results of this assessment will be shared with the communities. We need to be sure unequivocally if the site is an ongoing source of mercury, and if it is, then we need to work with partners to take all measures to stop further mercury from entering the river.
We understand the Federal Government is also committed to working with the province and Grassy Narrows First Nation and Wabaseemoong Independent Nations on the remediation work and we look forward to working with them as a key partner. We are also committed to working with Grassy Narrows, Wabaseemoong and the Federal Government to explore the best options for reforming the Mercury Disability Board process so that it aligns with the best interests of the two First Nations.
We will continue to work with the First Nations through regular meetings, and we are committed to providing updates on this work to the public. We know there continues to be significant work ahead for all and we are completely committed to working together with the First Nations and the Federal Government to ensure sufficient actions are taken.”
Water Canada has provided ongoing coverage of Grassy Narrows’ struggle to remediate their watershed and gain recognition and support from government and public institutions with respect to their crisis. Our forthcoming print edition will further investigate the remediation plans of Dr. Rudd and his team.