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Grassy Narrows youth paying a high price for government inaction on mercury crisis

    December 05, 2018

    A new study released today documents the very cost of ignoring the mercury crisis at Grassy Narrows.

    Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, said, “The latest community health study on the Grassy Narrows First Nation is an indictment of the appalling history of government inaction and indifference. The young people in this study were born and grew up after the federal and provincial governments had already washed their hands of the mercury crisis at Grassy Narrows. Imagine the difference it could have made if, instead of denying that mercury was even a threat, these governments had shouldered their responsibilities and worked with the community from the outset to ensure that young people could practice their rights and traditions in a safe and healthy environment.”

    Amnesty International first became involved with Grassy Narrows because the youth of that First Nation led an extraordinarily successful campaign to protect their territory from the impacts of industrial logging. Tragically, as the latest report from an ongoing community-led study clearly shows, the same youth are paying a terrible price for decades of government neglect of the health of their river system.

    The report, prepared by Dr. Donna Mergler, a renowned authority on community health and the impacts of mercury poisoning, finds vastly disproportionate levels of ill-health, both physical and mental, among young people at Grassy Narrows. The report draws a number of connections to the impacts of mercury dumped into the river system in the 1960s including the health impacts of pregnant women eating contaminated fish and the loss of culture and livelihoods resulting from the destruction of the fishing economy.

    The report recommendations include full compensation for the people of Grassy Narrows.

    “The federal and provincial governments should ensure that the recommendations put forward by Dr. Mergler are implemented without delay,” Alex Neve said. “What the people of Grassy Narrows are seeking is a fundamental matter of justice. The federal and provincial governments need to acknowledge the terrible harm that has been done to this community and work with the people of Grassy Narrows to set things right so that future generations can enjoy their right to a safe and healthy childhood.”

    For more information, visit http://freegrassy.net/.

    To arrange an interview, please contact:

    Lucy Scholey, Amnesty International Canada (English), 613-744-7667 ext. 236, lscholey@amnesty.ca