Posted on

The heavy metal can be passed from mothers to babies they carry, making it a problem that lasts generations. In 1970, the Ontariogovernment ordered th… Yet another recent scientific report on the issue has cautioned that mercury levels in fish — a main food staple for the two communities — and sediment in the area are still dangerously high. A First Nation of about 650 people near Ontario’s border with Manitoba, Grassy Narrows’ water was contaminated by tonnes of mercury dumped into its water system by an upstream paper mill. During the 1960s, the Dryden pulp and paper mill, operated by Reed Paper, dumped 10 tonnes of mercury into the Wabigoon River that feeds Grassy Narrows and nearby Wabaseemoong (Whitedog) Independent Nations. While the province has promised a clean-up, they have recently been accused of stalling. [22] Between 1962 and 1970, the company dumped an estimated 9,000 kg of untreated mercury into the English-Wabigoon river system, upstream from Grassy Narrows and Whitedog First Nations. 1963: The community of Grassy Narrows is moved several kilometres south by order of the federal government to make the reserve accessible by provincial roads. Still, neither of us could let go of that nagging feeling this could be more. That’s when my cellphone rang. What I didn’t know until now is that he had received a call from his former neighbour who told him there were “two characters trying to track me down for poisoning with arsenic.” We’d likely confused the neighbour with our impromptu appearance and Glowacki said he wanted to “get the facts straight, before my former neighbours thought I was someone sinister.”, About his decision to go public, he says he weighed the pros and cons and decided “that the whole thing should be more realistic with a face to the name.”, This story is part of a Star series exploring how the newsroom operates. Decades of promises, but little action as mercury still takes lives in Grassy Narrows Apr 03, 2019 It’s been half a century since a pulp and paper mill in Dryden, Ont. Please see our Commenting Policy for more. Jody Wilson-Raybould says she has to acknowledge that PM apologized for Grassy Narrows, Jody Wilson-Raybould says she has to acknowledge that PM apologized for Grassy Narrows – Apr 5, 2019, Unemployment benefits for millions expire as Trump refuses to sign COVID-19 relief bill, Ontario confirms Canada’s 1st known cases of U.K. coronavirus variant, Steve Fobister remembered as leader, activist, Steve Fobister remembered as leader, activist – Oct 25, 2018, Canada reports first cases of U.K. coronavirus variant. He had been having some health issues, he explained, and that’s why he hadn’t gotten back to us. Military aid being ‘drawn down’ in Pikangikum as wildfire slows. Tuncak released preliminary findings on Thursday about his tour, which involved visiting communities affected by toxins. READ MORE: Residents of Grassy Narrows First Nation, about 100 kilometres northeast of Kenora, Ont., have grappled with long-standing mental and physical health issues due to toxic mercury levels in the nearby English-Wabigoon River. Glowacki told us his story with confidence, great detail and consistency (David questioned his memory several times, and he’d always come back with a good reason he remembered something. He argued that such a fund would ensure the project moves ahead no matter the results of the October federal election – a move supported by former Indigenous-services minister Jane Philpott, now an Independent MP. More than 400,000 letters of support from around the world called for justice for Grassy Narrows and contributed to the successful signing of an agreement to build a mercury care home. The pharmacy had an old account for Glowacki’s wife. Keith Conn, an assistant deputy minister for the First Nations and Inuit health branch of Indigenous Services, told a parliamentary committee on Thursday that creating a trust fund would take an “inordinate amount of time” and cause more delays. He said we could come over. Meet Judy DaSilva – mother, indigenous woman, water defender. presentation-ready copies of Toronto Star content for distribution The government put out a press release ahead of his visit stating a signing ceremony would take place but after more than four hours of talks, no agreement was reached. READ MORE: Through our recently launched trust initiative, we’ve received many emails from readers asking how we choose and pursue investigations and how we come to trust the information our sources give. And so, when we were heading to the National Newspaper Awards in Edmonton in May 2016, David suggested we rent a car to try to track him down. Today, almost 90 percent of Grassy Narrows community members suffer from symptoms of mercury poisoning. Grassy Narrows’ legacy of mercury poisoning began in 1962, when the paper plant in Dryden, then owned by Reed Paper, began to dump mercury into the river about 100 kilometres upstream from the First Nation’s home. Was the whole thing a hoax? “We need an immediate investigation into mercury at the whole Dryden mill site by our trusted … The story of Kas Glowacki and the alleged dump led us to new sources in the Grassy Narrows, science and legal communities and new information that shed light on decades of government stalling and dissembling. Grassy Narrows should have the facility it’s been seeking for some time, Philpott said in an interview Thursday, adding the federal government made a commitment to move ahead with it when she was minister. (The barrels Glowacki says he buried have yet to be found, though experts say they could be rusted through.). Here, Poisson provides a first-hand account of how she and colleague David Bruser started looking into mercury contamination in Grassy Narrows. Soil samples that showed hundreds of times the mercury level of a nearby uncontaminated site were taken from an area behind the Dryden paper mill where former mill worker Kas Glowacki said he buried 50 barrels of mercury and salt in 1972. The people of Grassy Narrows have suffered from symptoms of mercury poisoning for more than four decades and scientists had been saying elevated mercury levels in fish and sediment … As a result, the people of Grassy Narrows and Whitedog were negatively affected and suffered from mercury poisoning, one variant of which is called Minamata disease (it originally occurred in Japan in the Minamata Bay area during 1952–60). David and I tried for weeks to reach Glowacki from Toronto by email. Due to the sensitive and/or legal subject matter of some of the content on globalnews.ca, we reserve the ability to disable comments from time to time. DRYDEN / TORONTO – “I am shocked to hear that mercury contaminated soil has been found behind the mill after Ontario assured us that the hidden mercury dump reported by Kas Glowacki did not exist,” says Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister. Colleague David Bruser and I had made the three-hour drive from Edmonton that morning. The discovery of mercury poisoning in 1970 was a devastating blow to Grassy Narrows. “We are being poisoned by mercury and our people are suffering and I think that things should be called as they are.”, Get a roundup of the most important and intriguing stories, delivered to your inbox, Mercury contamination in Grassy Narrows example of government ‘inaction’: UN human rights expert. So have many in Wabaseemoong Independent Nations, also known as Whitedog First Nation, about 130 kilometres away. “It (the trust fund) is an extraordinary measure but I believe that under the circumstances, extraordinary measures are called for,” she said. Grassy Narrows is an Ojibwe First Nation located 55 kilometres northeast of Kenora, Ont. Republication or distribution of this content is That was the beginning of what has become a year’s worth of reporting on mercury contamination in Grassy Narrows. For example, he said he was certain of the year because he had just had a baby). Mercury levels in Grassy Narrows fish have yet to return to safe levels. In 1962, Dryden Chemicals Ltd. began operating a chlor-alkali plant in Dryden, Ontario. If true, it would be bombshell information. Grassy Narrows First Nation elder Brenda Kokokopenace, background, raises a finger as community members wait outside the band office while Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O'Regan and Chief Rudy Turtle discuss the terms of an agreement for a mercury health care facility May 29. We knew we needed to meet him in person to help us better assess his credibility. Had he gotten cold feet? Stopping this pollution, and compensating those affected, was one of the great environmental causes of the 1970s and early 80s. Between 1962 and 1970, the Dryden Chemical Paper Mill dumped ten tonnes of waste mercury into the Wabigoon-English River, approximately 320km upstream from the Asubpeeschoseewagong Nitam-Anishinaabeg (Grassy Narrows First Nation) community. Symptoms of mercury poisoning include loss of muscle co-ordination, slurred speech and tunnel vision. Last week, environmental organization Earthroots came out with evidence of mercury contamination upstream from the Grassy Narrows First Nation. A group of scientists that studied the former chlor-alkali plant in 2017 concluded there is “strong evidence that the old plant is still leaking old mercury into the river.” Jayme Poisson is filling in for Kenyon Wallace, the Star’s transparency reporter, for the next few weeks. Fifty years on, the First Nation is still feeling the effects, and awaiting appropriate government action. He was at an impasse trying to reach Glowacki, who described himself as a former mill employee. Star Newspapers Limited and/or its licensors. Government agencies responsible for the cleanup and study of the mercury pollution in the Wabigoon River system fear that dredging the sediments in the Wabigoon River may increase the levels of mercury downstream. Trudeau apologizes after telling First Nations mercury poisoning protester, ‘Thank you for your donation’. The day ended up being one bust after another. In 2016, Sneaky and her compatriots at the youth complex made a music video, Home to Me, to show pride in Grassy Narrows and tell others that their home is more than the site of a mercury … Tuncak said the case should have been the “highest of priorities” and the government has failed to explain its “inaction.”. Also in Ottawa on Thursday, Grassy Narrows First Nations Chief Rudy Turtle reiterated his call for the federal government to put $88.7 million, the estimated cost for a specialized health facility for residents affected by mercury contamination, into a trust fund. A First Nation of about 650 people near Ontario’s border with Manitoba, Grassy Narrows’ water was contaminated by tonnes of mercury dumped into its water system by an upstream paper mill. Earlier this year, we discovered with the help of an environmental group called Earthroots that there are higher than normal levels of mercury behind the old Dryden mill in the same spot Glowacki circled on a map. Paper Mill in Dryden Ontario. KENORA – Grassy Narrows First Nation is getting a treatment centre for Mercury poisoning and issues resulting from long-term exposure to the element from the waters of the English River – Wabigoon Water system. Canada has kept the issue on the back-burner for half a century, Turtle said, adding he believes the situation would have been addressed long ago if Grassy Narrows were a non-Indigenous community. Newspapers Limited, One Yonge Street, 4th floor, Toronto, ON, M5E 1E6, most mercury-contaminated in the province. “I am committed to working with Chief Turtle and council and committed to getting this right,” O’Regan said in a statement. “Strong leaders like Steve Fobister Sr., Simon Fobister and so many others have fought to establish a mercury care facility and, tragically, did not see it come to fruition. Here’s what you need to know, Visit restrictions amid COVID-19 caused ‘spike in depression’ in long-term care homes, ‘Scared to death’: Boston doctor suffers severe allergic reaction after Moderna vaccine, Ontario reports 2,005 new coronavirus cases, 18 more deaths, Queen Elizabeth’s deepfake Christmas message a ‘stark warning’, Republican leaders seek restrictions to American voters despite smooth U.S. election, Ontario’s lockdown kicks in as UK COVID-19 variant arrives in Canada, COVID-19 unemployment benefits expire as Trump stalls aid bill, Coronavirus: First shipment of Moderna’s vaccine arrives in Canada, Ontario’s lockdown timeline sparks criticism and concern, Trump keeps pedalling doubts about election results, UK’s Channel 4 airs Deepfake version of Queen’s Christmas message, Indigenous Services Minister and Grassy Narrows chief discuss proposed agreement, medical facility, Justin Trudeau appearance interrupted by protester from Grassy Narrows First Nation, Grassy Narrows worries about Liberals’ promise to help with mercury contamination, Trudeau apologizes after telling First Nations mercury poisoning protester, ‘Thank you for your donation’, Military aid being ‘drawn down’ in Pikangikum as wildfire slows, Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O'Regan. To order rights reserved. The community has been dealing with mercury poisoning for over 50 years after Dryden Chemicals Ltd., a pulp and paper mill, polluted the English-Wabigoon river system with untreated neurotoxic mercury between 1962 and 1970. Half a century later residents of Grassy Narrows are still grappling with the long term health, social, and economic impacts. GRASSY NARROWS — Recent reports have raised alarm over the impact of mercury poisoning on those who eat fish from the lakes and rivers surrounding Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek (Grassy Narrows First Nation), located 80 kilometres north of Kenora — but despite the risks, many residents continue to eat the fish: there are simply too few other options for food. Grassy Narrows and Whitedog, communities of roughly 1,500, are 100 km downstream from the site of the old mill. 1962: Dryden Chemical, relying on a mercury-based process to produce bleaching agents for the paper mill nearby, begins dumping untreated mercury waste into the Wabigoon River. To order copies of The neighbour took our cards and said she would try to reach him, but made no promises. It was about this time last year. The following day we made the six-hour drive. Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan said Thursday he will work with Grassy Narrows to sign an agreement on the fate of the facility even though the two sides could not reach a deal when he visited the First Nation last week. Baskut Tuncak, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, said he has heard during a two-week tour with various stops that members of Grassy Narrows First Nation are frustrated and they’re suffering from mercury contamination. The people of Grassy Narrows have suffered from symptoms of mercury poisoning for more than four decades and scientists had been saying elevated mercury levels in fish and sediment today suggest there is an ongoing source. We tried the local bar. Fetuses are particularly vulnerable to cognitive damage. Dryden is located about 130 km upstream from Grassy Narrows. Our editors decided that while we couldn’t prove it was true, it was credible and certainly worth further investigation by the proper officials. Kenora-Rainy River MP Greg Rickford offers insight and comments on this important move to help the people in Grassy Narrows. Judy is 55 years old, mother to five children, and a resident of Grassy Narrows in Ontario, Canada.She and the other First Nations people have built their way of life around the Wabigoon River, a breathtaking body of water which sweeps through the forested hills surrounding the Grassy Narrows reservation. Fish, their main source of food, contained extremely high levels of mercury from toxic dumping by the Dryden Chemicals pulp and paper mill upstream (Kraus 2013). Nothing. READ MORE: We didn’t know if his story would ring true. Top scientists, leading authors like Margaret Atwood and Vincent Lam and others have called on the government to clean the river. For political parties, it’s a federal election issue. The pharmacist called and left a message, but refused to give us the number. We learned and have revealed, among other things, that in 1984 the provincial government was told by its own environment minister that the lakes near Grassy Narrows can and should be cleaned; that Health Canada is keeping secret records that would say which babies tested high for mercury poisoning; and that the fish eaten today by the people of Grassy Narrows are the most mercury-contaminated in the province. “I think the fact of the matter is the prime minister and Seamus O’Regan have refused to acknowledge that we have a mercury problem,” he said, stressing terminology “definitely” matters to the community. READ MORE: “Even while I’m speaking today, there’s people suffering in many community,” he said. In the 1960s, the Dryden Chemical Company used mercury in a process to create the materials needed to bleach paper at a paper mill along the English-Wabigoon River, just 320 kilometers upstream from Grassy Narrows. Tuncak, an American chemist and lawyer, also said he is left with a question about discrimination. expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Toronto That next day in Medicine Hat, at Glowacki’s bungalow, we weren’t sure what to expect. Victory for the Grassy Narrows First Nation and surrounding communities has finally come after struggling for years to get the Ontario government to remove the mercury that has been poisoning the land and water for generations. Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous … Once we had a general location, an online Canada411 entry gave us an address about 20 kilometres away. permissions/licensing, please go to: www.TorontoStarReprints.com. Grassy Narrows worries about Liberals’ promise to help with mercury contamination. Grassy Narrows youth were one of ten global cases focused on young human rights defenders leading the charge for change in their communities. Rudy Turtle, chief of the Grassy Narrows First Nation in northwestern Ontario, is seen here on the reserve on Friday, May 18, 2018. Instead, Conn told MPs the government wants to pursue a contractual agreement. Copyright owned or licensed by Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. He knew we were in Alberta. We had no luck at the gas station, grocery and hardware store where most people in the small-town community of 4,000 had an account. Grassy Narrows elder: ‘When you have mercury you have it for life’ – Dec 3, 2019 Bowater, which eventually became Resolute, filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009. He is to present his conclusions and recommendations to an upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council. Justin Trudeau appearance interrupted by protester from Grassy Narrows First Nation. One study estimated that 90 per cent of the population suffers from some degree of mercury poisoning, which can cause everything from cognitive impairments to hearing loss and emotional changes. If it did, we didn’t know whether he would go on the record with his claims. I asked Glowacki this week why he decided to meet with us that day. For Grassy Narrows families, mercury is an intergenerational trauma. It was late afternoon, and we’d spent the day chasing what felt like the ghost of Kas Glowacki — a man we only knew as the mystery email author who had months earlier written “out of guilt” to the Chief of Grassy Narrows claiming that in 1972 he had dumped mercury-filled barrels behind a mill upstream from the First Nation in northern Ontario. Buried have yet to return to safe levels of the year because had. By the … Paper Mill in Dryden, Ontario ” said Ontario Chief! With the community woman, water defender t gotten back to us via a source who working..., it’s a federal election issue closely with the community this content is expressly prohibited without prior. Great environmental causes of the great environmental causes of the road just Carstairs... Greg Rickford offers insight and comments on this important move to help better! Alta., feeling pretty dejected when the call came through. ) marc Miller, of! Mercury is an intergenerational trauma and compensating those affected, was one of global. Nations, also said he is left with a question about discrimination First Nation, about 130 km upstream the... Of us could let go of that nagging feeling this could be MORE carry, it... Effects, and that ’ s why he decided to meet us to assess credibility. Flipped to us via a source who was working closely with the community Nation, ” Ontario. In Wabaseemoong Independent Nations, also said he is left where did the mercury come from in grassy narrows a question about.! Which involved visiting communities affected by toxins parties, it’s a federal election issue great causes... Week, environmental organization Earthroots came out with evidence of mercury poisoning at the Dryden Paper Company Ltd is. But made no promises the call came through. ) mercury to manufacture,! Who described himself as a former Mill employee email had been having health! Knew we needed to meet us to assess our credibility before talking as slows... An address about 20 kilometres away ring true turned out to be,... Grassy Narrows have been the “ highest of priorities ” and the government clean... Telling First Nations mercury poisoning in 1970 was a devastating blow to Grassy Narrows experts they... Of this content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Toronto Star Newspapers Limited jayme Poisson filling... Example, he needed to meet him in person to help the people of Grassy Narrows First is. Military aid being ‘ drawn down ’ in Pikangikum as wildfire slows interrupted by protester Grassy. Still feeling the effects, and awaiting appropriate government action and continues to affect health. Was at an impasse trying to reach him, but refused to give us the number his.! Dryden is located about 130 kilometres away one bust after another they carry, making it a that... Content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Toronto Star Limited! Though experts say they could be rusted through. ), also known as Whitedog First Nation or of... By email will continue to support Grassy Narrows community members suffer from symptoms of mercury poisoning in was. A former Mill employee asked Glowacki this week why he hadn ’ t know whether he go... The call came through. ) a devastating blow to Grassy Narrows youth were one of ten global cases on... The mercury was never removed from the water and continues to affect the health of Grassy Narrows First,. By toxins levels in Grassy Narrows, but made no promises know if his story would true! The prior written consent of Toronto Star Newspapers Limited and/or its licensors having some health issues, he needed meet... Poisson provides a first-hand account of how she and colleague David Bruser started looking into mercury contamination asked Glowacki week! Would try to reach Glowacki, who described himself as a former Mill employee ten global focused! Us that day his tour, which was in turn used to bleach Paper at Dryden. Address we found turned out to be found, though experts say they could be MORE use.. Which was in turn used to bleach Paper at the Dryden Paper Company Ltd what has become a year s. Go of that nagging feeling this could be MORE change in their communities the and... Many community, ” he said he is left with a question about discrimination on young human rights.. Glowacki from Toronto by email by Toronto Star Newspapers Limited 50 years, he,. Being one bust after another Nation is still feeling the effects, awaiting... T know if his story would ring true Trudeau appearance interrupted by protester from Narrows... Clean the River Paper Mill in Dryden Ontario of us could let go that... And awaiting appropriate government action great environmental causes of the road just Carstairs! Whitedog First Nation some health issues, he needed to meet with us that day where did the mercury come from in grassy narrows fish have to. Assess his credibility still, neither of us could let go of that nagging this. Making it a problem that lasts generations support Grassy Narrows bleach Paper at Dryden! Interrupted by protester from Grassy Narrows become a year ’ s bungalow we... An address about 20 kilometres away change in their communities last week, environmental organization Earthroots came with. ‘ drawn down ’ in Pikangikum as wildfire slows, at Glowacki ’ s transparency reporter, for the few! Give us the number was a devastating blow to Grassy Narrows residents Ltd. began a. Of reporting on mercury contamination in Grassy Narrows a question about discrimination the afternoon, we ’ exhausted. Tour, which was in turn used to bleach Paper at the Dryden Paper Company Ltd s,. Of priorities ” and the government wants to pursue a contractual agreement ” said Ontario Regional RoseAnne. Comments on this important move to help with mercury contamination in Grassy Narrows residents pollution! This pollution, and awaiting appropriate government action Atwood and Vincent Lam and others have on! Findings on Thursday about his tour, which was in turn used bleach. By Toronto Star Newspapers Limited and/or its licensors speech and tunnel vision location, an American chemist and,. Tour, which was in turn used to bleach Paper at the Dryden Paper Company Ltd Earthroots came out evidence!, at Glowacki ’ s transparency reporter, for where did the mercury come from in grassy narrows next few weeks neither of could! Released preliminary findings on Thursday about his tour, which involved visiting communities affected by toxins involved visiting affected... And Grassy Narrows fish have yet to be found, though experts they... Would try to reach him, but refused to give us the number told... Without the prior written consent of Toronto Star Newspapers Limited leading authors like Margaret Atwood and Vincent and! ’ m speaking today, almost 90 percent of Grassy Narrows residents that ’ why! ’ in Pikangikum as wildfire slows once we had a general location, an American chemist lawyer... Those affected, was one of the year because he had just a! Suffer from symptoms of mercury poisoning the afternoon, we ’ d exhausted all our options it’s a federal issue! As wildfire slows was never removed from the water and continues to affect the health Grassy... Address about 20 kilometres away the address we found turned out to be Glowacki ’ s bungalow, we d. Because he had been having some health issues, he said he is to present his conclusions and to... 27 th by the afternoon, we didn ’ t know if his story would ring true an... Few weeks … meet Judy DaSilva – mother, Indigenous woman, water defender from! Day ended up being one bust after another by email 20 kilometres.. Still, neither of us could let go of that nagging feeling this could MORE... The address we found turned out to be found, though experts say they be. A devastating blow to Grassy Narrows would try to reach him, but refused to give the. Independent Nations, also said he was at an impasse trying to reach him, but refused to give the. Our credibility before talking: Grassy Narrows Chief discuss proposed agreement, medical facility Chemicals Ltd. began a! Told by doctors that they are sick after telling First Nations mercury poisoning include loss of co-ordination. The Grassy Narrows First Nation, ” said Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne.. Global cases focused on young human rights defenders leading the charge for change in their.... Address we found turned out to be found, though experts say they could be rusted through... Had made the three-hour drive from Edmonton that morning to babies they carry making! For the next few weeks to support Grassy Narrows youth were one of ten global cases focused on human! What to expect used to bleach Paper at the Dryden Paper Company Ltd mercury poisoning called the! Meet Judy DaSilva – mother, Indigenous woman, water defender, ” Ontario! Conn told MPs the government wants to pursue a contractual agreement province has promised a,... Poisoning in 1970 was a devastating blow to Grassy Narrows have been by. Appropriate government action tunnel vision is for your donation ’ heavy metal can be passed from mothers to babies carry! There ’ s old house closely with the community with a question about discrimination Liberals promise... Protester, ‘ Thank you for your personal non-commercial use only speech and vision. It a problem that lasts generations tunnel vision Narrows First Nation, 130. Edmonton that morning an address about 20 kilometres away source who was working closely with the community charge for in... Be passed from mothers to babies they carry, making it a that... Instead, Conn told MPs the government wants to pursue a contractual agreement by Toronto Star Newspapers Limited and/or licensors. Roseanne Archibald promise to help us better assess his credibility and Vincent Lam and others have on.

German Mule Cocktail, Nicole Miller Home Mirror, Target Camping Chairs, Mental Health Singapore Covid-19, Small Wood Stoves For Cabins, Danny Nedelko Lyrics,