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Mercury crisis at Grassy Narrows requires decisive federal action, not more empty promises

    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.”

    More than two years ago, in January 2017, the Prime Minister’s office said that the Trudeau government would deal with the mercury crisis at Grassy Narrows “once and for all.”  In November 2017, the federal government promised to build and operate a care home and treatment facility for mercury survivors in Grassy Narrows. More than 500 days later, only 1% of the promised money has been spent to build the facility, the ground has not been broken, and the Chief and Council of Grassy Narrows reports that the project is at a stand still.

    The Open Letter supports the Grassy Narrows First Nation’s call for funds for the care home and treatment centre to be put in trust for the community as the only way to ensure that Trudeau government’s promise is kept no matter the outcome of the upcoming federal election.

    “What the people of Grassy Narrows are asking for is a matter of justice and basic human rights,” said Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada. “For decades, the federal and provincial government have simply denied the consequences of the poisoning of the waters on the health of Grass Narrows people. It’s past time that proper care for Grassy Narrows elders and other mercury survivors be treated as a matter of urgent national priority.”

    On March 29, Minister O’Regan is visiting the First Nation, a promise he made in March, shortly after Prime Minister Trudeau apologized for a dismissive remark to a Grassy Narrows supporter that was widely circulated on social media.

    “At this point, the onus is on the Trudeau government to demonstrate that this trip is about more than repairing the Liberal brand,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. “A half-century of neglect and cover-up promotes cynicism. So long as the government fails to deliver decisively on its promises, that cynicism can only deepen with each day that passes.”

    Quality, specialized care for mercury survivors is among the recommendations of a detailed health assessment that has been carried out by Dr. Donna Mergler, a renowned expert on mercury poisoning and community health.

    The people of Grassy Narrows have been very clear that they need specialized facilities to care for the survivors of mercury poisoning in their community. This is what the Trudeau government promised. This is what Minister O’Regan needs to deliver.

    For further information, please contact Lucy Scholey, Media Relations 613-744-7667 ext 236; lscholey@amnesty.ca

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