Federal government not abdicating role in Grassy Narrows cleanup, says Murray


OTTAWA — Ontario Environment Minister Glen Murray says there’s no reason to think Ottawa is not committed to addressing the long-standing issue of mercury contamination and cleanup at Grassy Narrows First Nation.

Murray says he believes the federal government has expressed a sincere interest to be a partner in “more than just words,” noting the province has work to do before Ottawa’s role can be more formally defined.

Last week, indigenous leaders expressed concern after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested mercury contamination was “very much” an Ontario issue, with Ottawa playing only a supporting role.

Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister says Trudeau must firmly commit to do everything in his power to clean up the mercury and ensure mercury survivors receive proper support and state of the art care.

New findings also suggest there is ongoing mercury contamination in the area from a paper mill in Dryden, Ont., that was decommissioned decades ago.

The reserve, located near the Manitoba border, has struggled to deal with poisoning since the mill dumped 9,000 kilograms of mercury into the Wabigoon and English River systems in the 1960s.

“There’s been a lot of concern expressed by the federal government about this,” Murray said.

“There’s nothing in our discourse that suggests they’re not there; we don’t expect them to do things outside their area of authority and responsibility.”