Select this search icon to access the amnesty.ca search form

Main menu

Facebook Share

Grassy Narrows

    June 15, 2019

    Young people from Grassy Narrows are travelling to Toronto for a massive rally on June 20th to focus attention to urgency of addressing the crisis of mercury poisoning facing their First Nation.

    Amnesty International is urging its members and supporters to do all they can to help this vital and timely campaign.

    The people of Grassy Narrows are living with the devastating consequences of a half century of mercury contamination of their rivers and lakes. The harm they’ve experienced, including erosion of culture, loss of livelihoods, and one of the worst community health crises anywhere in Canada, has been made so much worse by decades of government denial and inaction. 

    Last month, federal Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan visited Grassy Narrows but failed to deliver on a long promised treatment centre for mercury survivors. 

    This stalling and inaction is all the more shocking in light of the fact that two of the United Nations independent human rights advisors, the expert of health and the expert on toxic wastes, have now both urged Canada to take action on the mercury crisis.

    May 30, 2019

    Statement of Amnesty International Canada,  Council of Canadians,  CUPE Ontario

    Our organizations are deeply disappointed that the federal government has failed to take decisive action to guarantee that survivors of mercury poisoning at Grassy Narrows will get the medical care they need and deserve. 

    Although the federal Indigenous Services department had announced that Minister Seamus O’Regan would sign a memorandum of understanding with Grassy Narrows when he visited the northwestern Ontario First Nation yesterday, no such agreement was reached.

    According to a statement released by the Grassy Narrows Chief and Council, negotiations are continuing around key needs of the community. This includes a call for the federal government to put the necessary funds for the construction and operation of a treatment centre into trust so that health of mercury survivors will be protected from shifting political winds.

    May 28, 2019

    In an open letter, Amnesty International Canada, the Council of Canadians and CUPE Ontario are urging Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan to use his visit to Grassy Narrows tomorrow to make good on his government’s promise to provide long-needed health services to a community devastated by a half century of mercury poisoning. 

    Maude Barlow, Honourary Chairperson of the Council of Canadians, said, “The people of Grassy Narrows have already had to wait decades too long for the medical care they need and deserve. It is unconscionable that they should continue to wait for the government to fulfill its promise while their family members die or languish without adequate care.”

    March 21, 2019

    AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL
    NEWSFLASH

    March 21, 2019

    OTTAWA – Whether it’s the devastating legacy of mercury contamination at Grassy Narrows, ongoing pollution from the Mount Polley mining disaster, or the looming threat of the Site C dam construction, Amnesty International says government decisions that ignore the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples must be recognized as a form of environmental racism.

    “It’s no coincidence that three of our highest priority human rights cases in Canada all revolve around contamination and threats to the rivers and lakes on which Indigenous peoples depend for their livelihoods and ways of life,” says Tara Scurr, business and human rights campaigner with Amnesty International Canada. “Far too often, governments in Canada have demonstrated that they place little value on the health and well-being of Indigenous peoples and the revitalization of their cultures and traditions. That’s why we are marking World Water Day by renewing our commitment to support the Indigenous water defenders leading these crucial and inspiring human rights struggles.”

    December 05, 2018

    “We are proud of our kids. They amaze me every day with their humour, their pride, and their strength. They should not have to fight again and again for basic justice that others in Canada take for granted. They should not have to overcome hunger, poverty, and poison in order to succeed.”  Judy Da Silva, Grassy Narrows, quoted today in The Toronto Star

    One of the things that has stayed with me with from Amnesty’s first official research mission to Grassy  Narrows, almost 15 years ago, was the story shared by a young mother who had only recently learned about the dangers of mercury contamination of their river system. Throughout her pregnancy she had eaten a lot of fish caught in the local rivers because she knew that wild food is part of a healthy diet and that eating fish is part of what has always connected generation after generation to their culture. But when we spoke she was very worried about whether she might have inadvertently harmed her child.

    May 25, 2018
    Chief Rudy Turtle, Dr. Donna Mergler and Judy Da Silva outside Queen's Park

    Chief Rudy Turtle of the Grassy Narrows First Nation describes a community that was once able to thrive from living on the land. But all that changed in the 1960s when the waterways flowing through this northern Ontario community were poisoned by mercury dumped by an upstream pulp mill. 

    Now, after decades of struggle to draw attention to their situation, a new report released by the First Nation conclusively demonstrates just how devastating that harm has been.

    The report, based on an extensive household survey of community members, compares key dimensions of health at Grassy Narrows to other First Nations and to the general population.

    What the report depicts is one of the worst community health crises in Canada.

    March 21, 2018

    “You look at the lake, it looks good, it looks clean, the fish look all right. How to believe that something like that could turn against you?” – former Grassy Narrows Chief Steve Fobister Sr. quoted in the Toronto Star

     

    Steve Fobister. Bill Fobister. Judy Da Silva. These are some of the leaders and activists from Grassy Narrows who have played a critical in shaping and informing Amnesty International’s longstanding campaign for justice for that First Nation.

    They are all, in every sense of the word, human rights champions.

    They also, all three, suffer from the devastating, debilitating impacts of mercury poisoning.

    And they are not alone.

    February 13, 2017
    Allan Lissner/FreeGrassy.net

     “I thank the grassroots people of Grassy Narrows, and our supporters who have been tireless in their work to gain justice for mercury survivors at long last.” -- Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister

    The province of Ontario has just made a public commitment to clean up the river system on which the people of Grassy Narrows depend.

    The announcement follows a meeting between Premier Kathleen Wynne and the people of Grassy Narrows last Friday.

    The province’s commitment reportedly includes a promise that the river clean up will be led by the people of Grassy Narrows themselves.

    Grassy Narrows is the site of one of the worst incidents of industrial pollution in Canada. A half century ago, an upstream pulp and paper mill was allowed to dump tonnes of mercury into the river system. The people of Grassy Narrows are still dealing with the disastrous impacts on their health and way of life.

    January 17, 2017

    By Craig Benjamin

    It’s information that the Ontario government could – and should – have brought to light, but failed to do so.

    Last year, the provincial government stated that it had not been able to find any evidence to support claims by a former millworker that barrels of mercury had been buried at a site upstream from the Grassy Narrows First Nation and might now be leaching into their water system.

    Last week, however, the Toronto Star reported that members of the environmental NGO Earthroots had conducted their own soil tests at a location identified by the mill worker and found mercury levels as much as 80 times higher than normal. The findings were replicated by tests done by the Toronto Star. Scientists who reviewed the finding said there was little doubt that this was industrial mercury.

    The story is particularly concerning because it is the latest revelation of Ontario’s persistent and shocking disregard for the basic safety and well-being of the people of Grassy Narrows.

    June 21, 2016

    By Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    Think about this.

    A community devastated by the massive release of mercury into the rivers on which they depend.

    Credible scientific studies showing that a half century later the people are still suffering from the debilitating effects of mercury poisoning and that even their children are being harmed.

    Further studies that show that the mercury is not going away and that fish from the river will continue to be unsafe for years to come unless something is done.

    New allegations that an illegal toxic dump near the river could increase the mercury contamination ten-fold and leave the river unsafe for almost a century to come.

    This is the story of the Grassy Narrows First Nation in northwest Ontario. It’s a situation that cries out for justice.

    Now consider how the federal and provincial governments have responded.

    June 21, 2016

    The government of Ontario has demonstrated shocking indifference to the lives and well-being of the people of the Grassy Narrows First Nation who are suffering the devastating consequences of mercury dumped into their river system a half century ago. A story published this week in the Toronto Star revealed that the ongoing threat to Grassy Narrows may be even worse than previously known, and the province’s failure even greater.

    In the 1960s, the Ontario government allowed a Dryden pulp mill to release approximately 9 metric tonnes of mercury into the English and Wabigoon river system. According to the story published in the Star this week, a former mill employee mill has now alleges that after the province finally stopped the mercury dumping in 1971, an additional 50 barrels of salt and liquid mercury were illegally buried in a plastic lined pit where it could be leaching into the river.

    May 25, 2016

     

    By Craig Benjamin

    "Clean the English-Wabigoon River System. Water is sacred." Judy da Silva, Grassy Narrows First Nation

    Subscribe to Grassy Narrows
    rights