National chiefs’ assembly backs Grassy Narrows

By Mike Aiken, Kenora Daily Miner and News

Friday July 23, 2010

Chiefs from across Canada have called for a public inquiry into mercury contamination at Grassy Narrows. They also called for an end to logging in the community's traditional territory, as well as permanent monitoring of the long-term effects on residents.

The demands were part of a resolution passed by delegates at the annual general meeting for the Assembly of First Nations in Winnipeg. It was the second motion debated Tuesday.

"We certainly appreciated the support. It's great!" said J.B. Fobister, who has been advocating on behalf of the First Nation for many years.

The resolution also empowered national chief Shawn Atleo and his staff to lobby on behalf of Grassy Narrows when it comes to addressing politicians and bureaucrats at Queen's Park and in Ottawa.

In 1970, the province finally admitted an estimated 20,000 lbs. of mercury leaked from the Dryden paper mill leaked into the English River and Winnipeg River system. The fight for compensation made its way to the Supreme Court, before a $16.6-million settlement was reached in 1986 with both Grassy Narrows and Whitedog.

There were also provisions for ongoing medical care, as well as social and economic development. Tuesday's motion included dissatisfaction with the Mercury Disability Board, established to help families suffering from lingering impacts.

Both communities had their traditional way of life devastated by the industrial pollution.

D R A F T R E S O L U T I O N # 0 2 / 2 0 1 0

AFN Annual General Assembly, July 20 – 22, 2010, Winnipeg, Manitoba

TITLE: Support for Grassy Narrows and Other Mercury Impacted Communities

SUBJECT: Environmental Protection / Health Advocacy

MOVED BY: Chief Simon Fobister, Grassy Narrows First Nation, ON

SECONDED BY: Leonard Gray, Proxy, Alderville First Nation, ON



A. It has been 40 years since Ontario first banned fishing on the English Wabigoon River system due to
mercury contamination from the Dryden paper mill chemical plant.

B. Recently released studies by Dr. Harada show that 79% of people tested in 2002 and 2004 in Grassy
Narrows and Wabasseemoong displayed systems of Minamata Disease, Minamata Disease with
complications, or possible Minamata Disease.

C. Dr. Harada found that the Mercury Disability Board acknowledged only 38% of the people he
diagnosed with Minamata Disease, Minamata Disease with complications, or possible Minamata
disease, implying that there are many patients still suffering that have not been acknowledged yet.
D. Children are still being born in Grassy Narrows with health problems arising from mercury poisoning,
two generations after the poisoning was publicized.

E. Externally imposed industrial waste and resource extraction compounds the damage from residential
schools, hydro damming, and mercury poisoning that have negatively impacted the health, culture and
livelihood of Grassy Narrows.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Chiefs-in-Assembly:

1. Collectively support the people of Grassy Narrows and their demands on governments, and mandate
the AFN to advocate on their behalf, including the following requirements:

a. Governments must come to the table to address mercury contamination;
b. Governments need to acknowledge mercury poisoning in Grassy Narrows and strengthen Health
Canada mercury safety guidelines to protect all life including people;
c. Permanent monitoring of the situation and ongoing funding for Grassy Narrows-run
environmental centre, which includes training for youth;
d. Institute mechanisms to stop industry from polluting the water and air; and
e. Restore Grassy Narrows’ control over Grassy Narrows Territory, including putting a stop to clear-
cut logging, as this contributes to the leaching of mercury into waterways.

2. Call on the Government of Ontario to establish a public inquiry into the ongoing health impacts of
mercury poisoning.

3. Direct the AFN and National Chief to advocate on behalf of Grassy Narrows and present, as
appropriate, the issues of mercury poisoning, water protection, and justice for Grassy Narrows and
other mercury impacted communities to the Premier of Ontario, the Ontario Minster of Health, and the
Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, as well as to the Prime Minister, the Federal Minister of Health, the
Minster of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, the Minister of Environment, and to other relevant