A First Nation in northwestern Ontario that has suffered decades of mercury poisoning is suing the provincial and federal governments, arguing they have failed to protect their treaty rights.

The Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek First Nation — known as Grassy Narrows — filed the lawsuit Tuesday morning in the Ontario Supreme Court of Justice.

It argues that governments have breached their obligations under Treaty 3 by failing to protect against or remediate the effects of mercury pollution in the English-Wabigon River system.

The allegations in this case have not been tested in court.

Contamination of the river system began in the 1960s and 70s when Dryden’s paper mill in northwestern Ontario dumped an estimated nine tonnes of mercury into the water.

Generation after generation have eaten river fish. According to a study previously reported by medical experts, 90 percent of a community of about 1,000 people experience symptoms of mercury poisoning. Among them is Chief Rudy Turtle.

“Our mercury nightmare should have ended a long time ago, but the government’s failure to meet its responsibilities is getting longer and worse,” Turtle said in a news release Tuesday.

‘Truth Commitment Test’

For years, environmental advocates have called for the river to be cleaned up and the mill closed.

In late May, a new study from Western University in London, Ont., revived those calls with a report showing that mercury contamination in river systems has become worse due to ongoing industrial pollution.

look Judy Da Silva of Grassy Narrows talks about how mercury poisoning affects First Nations:

Grass-Tung lawsuit targets ‘environmental racism’ of mercury poisoning.

Judy Da Silva, environmental health co-ordinator for the Grassy Narrows First Nation, says years of inaction and ‘environmental racism’ are behind the lawsuits against Ontario and Ottawa.

“The government has grossly breached its responsibilities to grass-fed people and failed to ensure that grass-fed people can fish safely,” the First Nation said in a statement. can exercise their right – it is a cornerstone of the Grassroots Nation’s livelihood and indigenous way of life.” Also released on Tuesday.

“This case will be a test of Ontario’s and Canada’s commitment to truth, reconciliation and justice in the wake of one of Canada’s worst environmental and human rights disasters.”

The lawsuit seeks to restore the ‘lifestyle’

Grassy Narrows, about 150 kilometers from Dryden near the Ontario-Manitoba border, is represented by Toronto-based firms Cavalluzzo LLP and Ratcliff LLP, both from Vancouver.

At this point, there is no set dollar amount for how much compensation the First Nation is seeking. However, the types of remedies are related to environmental restoration, “on which their health, and their livelihoods and their contractual rights depend,” Adrian Telford, co-lead legal counsel with Cavalluzzo LLP, told CBC News. said in an interview with

A boat is shown on a picture of a natural river.
People are seen boating on the Wabigon River in northwestern Ontario. Contamination of the river system began in the 1960s and 70s when Dryden’s paper mill in northwestern Ontario dumped an estimated nine tonnes of mercury into the water. (Presented by Alan Lesnar)

“Grassy is a community in crisis,” Telford said. “They need significant financial, and socioeconomic and health support to help community members improve their health, and their well-being and their lifestyles.” may be allowed to be reinstated.”

In 2017, the federal government committed to building a mercury care home in Grassy Nerve. Indigenous Services Canada recently reaffirmed its commitment of approximately $140 million to the project.

In the same year the Ontario Govt Pledged $85 million for mercury cleanup and remediation efforts. In the English and Vigoon river systems.

Almost seven years later, the river remains toxic. Construction on the Mercury Care Home is expected to begin this summer and take two to three years to complete.

“If this was Ontario cottage country, the river would have been cleaned up decades ago, the pollution would have stopped and the damages would have been properly compensated,” Telford said.

Ontario commits to ‘righting this historic wrong’

When pressed by Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa during Monday’s question period in the Ontario legislature, Environment, Conservation and Parks Minister Andrea Khanjin said the government is committed to addressing mercury pollution.

Khanjan said technical experts with the ministry have met with First Nations leaders and those leading the Western University study — though additional work is needed before the researchers’ report can be finalized.

look Ontario’s Environment Minister responds to questions about mercury poisoning:


Is Ontario doing enough to address mercury pollution in the English Wabigon River system?

NDP MPPs accused the Ontario government of inaction after the release of a report showing ongoing methylmercury contamination in the English-Wabigon River system in northwestern Ontario. But the environment minister says the province is working to help local communities on the issue.

Sandy Shaw, MPP for Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas and NDP environment, conservation and parks critic, called the response “disappointing.”

“This is a human and environmental disaster and it has been going on for generations. For heaven’s sake, Speaker, study time is well past,” Shaw said.

Khanjan is responding by pointing to the work being done with Ontario. English and Wabigon Rivers Remediation Panel.

“We are taking the politics out of this and referring to the science as this government is committed to righting this historic wrong.”

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