A framework agreement, which will provide federal support for a mercury care home, has been signed by Marc Miller, minister of Indigenous services, and Chief Rudy Turtle of the Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek (Grassy Narrows First Nation).
“The health of the residents of Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek is at the forefront of everyone’s minds and hearts,” said Marc Miller, minister of Indigenous services. “This historic framework agreement is the beginning of an important turning point.”
High level of mercury contamination in the English-Wabigoon River system, discovered in 1970, caused very high levels of mercury exposure among people residing in Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek and Wabaseemoong. Levels of exposure in the late 1960s and 1970s were sufficient to cause mercury poisoning among several highly exposed community members.
“Reflecting on what should have happened a long time ago, I take great pride and promise in what can be done so that specialized care can be accessed, and close to home,” added Miller. “I also recognize the work and trust of Chief Turtle putting what he believes in his heart to be just at the center of his advocacy.”
Indigenous Services Canada has been working with Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek leadership on two distinct projects that will meet the short and long-term health needs of the community: the construction of a new mercury care home and the expansion and renovation of the community’s current health facility.
Through this framework agreement, Indigenous Services Canada will provide $19.5 million to Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek towards the construction of the mercury care home, a design the community envisioned. The facility will provide access to health services to meet the needs of community residents who are living with methylmercury poisoning.
Furthermore, Indigenous Services Canada is working towards obtaining additional funding to support the operation of the mercury care home.
This announcement follows a call, which was issued in December 2019, for immediate action to establish a mercury care home for Grassy Narrows First Nation. The call received support from Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde and Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald.