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My research question began as: how might we treat the patients suffering from mercury poisoning in Grassy Narrows. 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. I want to get the help I think I might need. It was denied, on the basis that it might interfere with a law enforcement matter, “I feel like the ceremonies heal us and me, especially,” she said. “She was a nice, innocent, sweet girl. Home. Even talking is a chore. Dryden Chemical had dumped more than 20,000 pounds of mercury into the Wabigoon. The 15-year-old dropped out of school after Azraya’s death. when we started the blockade, but they heard the message.”. Bibliography. If that is the case, there are questions her father, Marlin Kokopenace, wants answered. First, there If Azraya was suicidal the Grassy Narrows. Tragedy runs deep in Azraya’s family, and police have typically had some involvement in it. “Environmental racism has to stop,” DaSilva said. “I saw one kid that died in agony not so long ago. The girl with the bright smile had just turned 14 when she left her family in Grassy Narrows First Nation in northwestern Ontario last spring in search of someone — or something — to ease her overwhelming grief. on a walker to shuffle through the tiny bungalow he shares with his daughter and her children. Indigenous peoples have been victims of environmental racism for decades, with water quality and scarcity being one of the factors. Keewatin’s two sons, Elvis, 24, and Morris, 29, died in 1992 while trying to swim to shore after police took their boat, leaving them stranded on an island. The 22-year-old was in a coma for Grassy Narrows Water Crisis Kiera, Robyn, Ashley, Christiana About Grassy Narrows Where Is Grassy Narrows? “People look at us as drunks and addicts and that’s not our fault, because we’ve grown up in a really bad “I just want to be there for them. Between 1962 and 1970, the Wabigoon river an important freshwater resource in Northwestern Ontario and a major source of food supply for the Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong First Nations was poisoned when a pulp and paper mill discharged 20, 000 tons of mercury into the river with the permission of the Ontario government. They’ve never lived in a community where jobs are plentiful and disabilities December 05, 2018. Darwin has difficulty with his balance, and That’s all we believe in... bad stuff.”. Our forthcoming print edition will further investigate the remediation plans of Dr. Rudd and his team. We probably are, already, and we don’t know what’s going to happen because nobody is helping,” said Chayna Loon, one of Azraya’s cousins. “I felt like I was needed there. One of the reasons the water crisis on Indigenous reserves has not been addressed is because the government does not regulate the water quality on reserves, like the rest of Canada (Human Rights Watch, 2017). The lucrative fishing tourism industry near Grassy Narrows also crashed as a result A sister that I loved and cared for,” said Azraya’s twin brother, Braeden Kokopenace, tears welling up in his eyes. I’m kind of struggling after losing Azraya,” she said. The water tower is seen on the Grassy Narrows First Nation reserve in northwestern Ontario on Friday, May 18, 2018. In addition, “Canada is one of the most water-rich countries in the world”, which is why it is shocking that the issue is occurring in the first place (Human Rights Watch, 2017). away into the woods. (Ed Ou/CBC). was an altercation with a police officer outside the arena in Kenora, which was caught on video. All rights reserved. Azraya’s friends say it starts with winning the fight for an inquest into her death, WATER CRISIS. “I want the youth to see there’s a greater thing they can turn to. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin … Grassy Narrows Chief Rudy Turtle is the NDP candidate for Kenora.) I suffer every day.”, Steve Fobister, sitting on the seat of his walker, lives with his daughter and grandchildren. Azraya’s aunt Lorenda Kokopenace said her son Christian was stabbed in the head last October, only hours after being released from police custody. (Ed Ou/CBC). Taking Action. Anishinaabe grandmothers sang a traditional mourning song, their drums echoing the rhythm of a heartbeat in the damp spring air. More than a year later, no one seems to know how she got there. “What is there for the people that are crippled with mercury symptoms? rare. Since the 1970s, the people of Grassy Narrows in Ontario, Canada, have fought for access to clean water. I hope more of the young people would do the same.”. They are killing us,” said the tired veteran of so many battles. Many Chiefs of Indigenous communities believe that people on reserves do not deserve a “substandard” quality of life (Human Rights Watch, 2017). Police had picked her up for public of the contamination. She was gone two days before a First Nations search team found her. “Mr. The “I feel like the younger people are the ones who are going through a tougher time,” Chayna said. There have been many battles — both public and private — during the decades of contamination at Grassy Narrows. September 17, 2019. When you talk to young people at Grassy Narrows, they tilt between despair and defiance. They are frightened, but manage to be champions for kids even younger than themselves. But before that, she wants to get treatment for her alcohol dependency. Since the government is technically not responsible for the water quality on Indigenous reserves, they do not feel obliged to solve the problem. that it could facilitate the commission of an unlawful act and that the personal information in the case was highly sensitive. messages such as “The more youth voices, the stronger we can be / Come together in strength and unity.”. Ancestors of the northern Ojibwe are thought to have originally inhabited the north shore of the upper Great Lakes. 1970: The government of Ontario closes the Wabigoon-English river system commercial fishery, removing one of the primary sources of income for residents of Grassy Narrows. We seem to be following the money trail “I have so much to share. (Ed Ou/CBC). It’s not clear whether a worker from Anishinaabe Abinoojii Family Services was with her at the hospital before she walked 1,000 residents has affected three generations. As of January 2016, drinking water advisories were in effect in 85 First Nations communities across Canada, with the majority in Ontario. They said that he had neurological problems and he died in a very sad way,” Fobister said. They migrated northward and westward during the late 17th and early 18th centuries in search of animals to supply the fur trade. “She meant so much to this whole “They want to see things. But health services are limited to a small nursing station, and mental health counselling on the reserve is nearly non-existent. The federal government is taking important steps to address the First Nations drinking water crisis, but falls short of the strides needed to realize its crucial promise. Then there’s the psychological stress of seeing your friends and family stricken with these problems. to the board are denied, according to a 2014 report from the board’s chair. In April, family and friends of Azraya Ackabee-Kokopenace gathered in Kenora, Ont., for a vigil marking the first anniversary of her death. “It knocked me off my It’s not the right way I want to be. But advocates say clear-cutting will mean more mercury in the water system — which has already poisoned 90 per cent of Grassy Narrows residents. 1969-70: High levels of mercury are discovered in the water and fish downriver from the plant. Her death has become an emblem of the social devastation that followed the environmental destruction at Grassy Narrows, leaving many to wonder: If a child’s plea for help can go unanswered and the details of her death can remain Chief Rudy Turtle says they got $5.2 million from Indigenous Services Canada and $1 million dollars from the province, so they could lift boil water advisories that had been in place for seven years since 2013, as well as extend service to new parts of the community. “I’m losing myself, I can feel it. Through my research, I learned that the government had promised a $170,000 to fund a study for a long-term mercury treatment center in 2017, and $4.5 billion to fund the treatment centre, that should have begun in 2017 (Snyder, 2019). Despite her disability, DaSilva has helped maintain the 15-year-old Grassy Narrows, approximately 500 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, has a long history with unsafe drinking water. Half a century after mercury contamination near Grassy Narrows First Nation, the poisoning continues to have deadly consequences — especially for youth, By Jody Porter Kenora in Ontario, Canada. Steve Fobister is among the select few who have received any compensation at all; Azraya’s brother Calvin also got some money before he died. He arrived on Grassy Narrows with a Japanese delegation in 1975 and stayed for years documenting the residents' plight. 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