Residents of Grassy Narrows First Nation, about 100 kilometres northeast of Kenora, Ont., have grappled with long-standing mental and physical health issues due to toxic mercury levels in the nearby English-Wabigoon River.So have many in Wabaseemoong Independent Nations, also known as Whitedog First Nation, about 130 kilometres away. GRASSY NARROWS — Recent reports have raised alarm over the impact of mercury poisoning on those who eat fish from the lakes and rivers surrounding Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek (Grassy Narrows First Nation), located 80 kilometres north of Kenora — but despite the risks, many residents continue to eat the fish: there are simply too few other options for food. Keewatin doesn't have to be told. Bret Cardinal of BD Cardinal & Associates designed the facility. They found  that "33.7 per cent  [54 people] of the target group would be diagnosed as Minamata Disease patients " and that "a total of 58.7 per cent [94 people] was affected by mercury.". Without that research, he said it is impossible to say what the present and future effect will be. Four decades later, the effects of that mercury – an estimated 9,000 kg – are still present. In the late 1960s, people in the Grassy Narrows and Whitedog First Nations populations started to suffer symptoms of mercury poisoning. Bill Fobister, a 73-year-old former chief of Grassy Narrows, says he hopes to move into the treatment centre if it is built by the time his own mercury-poisoning symptoms require it. Decades of government inaction. In addition, large patrilineal clans divide… The Mercury Care Home would provide live-in care for 22 community members of any age who are suffering from mercury poisoning and are not well enough to live at home, but want to stay close to their families in Grassy Narrows. More than 50 years after untreated mercury was dumped into the English and Wabigoon Rivers, causing widespread mercury poisoning and loss of cultural traditions, the community has finally signed a deal with the federal government for a mercury care home. The damaging effects are still seen today. Box 500 Station A Toronto, ON Canada, M5W 1E6. “Our philosophy is you design from the inside out. The fur trade economy transformed Ojibwe social organization and resource use. Fishing is central to their culture, traditions and economy. A clear cut section of forest is seen on Grassy Narrows First Nation territory near Dryden, Ont., in this 2006 handout image. Several Japanese doctors who had been involved in studying Minamata disease in Japan travelled to Canada to investigate the mercury poisoning in these people. That was also the year that methyl mercury in fish caught in Minamata Bay was identified as the cause of over 100 deaths and many more cases of brain damage in people who ate the fish. WATCH: Grassy Narrows chief calls for end to delays on building health centre to deal with mercury poisoning effects – Dec 3, 2019 comments Leave a … "I used to be able to stalk moose. The compensation is based on a point system for the severity of symptoms. Kenora-Rainy River MP Greg Rickford offers insight and comments on this important move to help the people in Grassy Narrows. After the Japanese scientists learned of reports of similar symptoms in Canada, their research brought them to the Grassy Narrows and White Dog First Nations in northwestern Ontario. "Those were times I really enjoy. Symptoms of mercury poisoning include loss of muscle co-ordination, slurred speech and tunnel vision. Today, almost 90 percent of Grassy Narrows community members suffer from symptoms of mercury poisoning. "I remember when my dad and my sister were fishing, and I'd go and help them," he told CBC's Jody Porter. Grassy Narrows and Whitedog First Nations. 50 years on, the community’s youth are determined to get justice. The effects of the poisoning became known as Minamata disease. So have many in Wabaseemoong Independent Nations, also known as Whitedog First Nation, about 130 kilometres away. Grassy Narrows argued that Ontario has no jurisdiction over logging on our Territory due to promises made by Canada in Treaty 3 and the constitution. While many community members protest logging companies Hanada also said there needs to be ongoing research into the cumulative effect on people who have continued to eat the fish from the waters near Grassy Narrows. But human health effects were not diagnosed until Dr. Masazumi Harada, who first exposed the extent of mercury poisoning at Grassy Narrows in 1975. Symptoms observed in at least one third of the people in the target group include: sensory disturbances on the limbs, difficulty walking a straight line, difficulty seeing, visual disturbances, hearing impairment, headaches, insomnia, exhaustion, fatigue and numbness in the limbs. Grassy Narrows is a modesty located about 80km at the northeast portion of Kenora. Sept. 2016: Japanese experts in mercury poisoning report that 90 per cent of the population of Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong First Nations show signs of exposure to the toxin, including people born years after the dumping of mercury ended. What did the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) rule. The paper mill closed in 1970. Keewatin says he'll be doing his part to seek out help for people who are suffering, and he hopes the new research shows the government compensation package from the 1980s is inadequate. The federal government had pushed for a design that was more like an assisted-living home, while Grassy Narrows had drawn up its own blueprint for a facility that gave specialized care to mercury poisoning patients. In the 1960s, though, a paper company’s processes accidentally poisoned the English-Wabigoon river system on which the Grassy Narrows First Nation relied. Traditionally, Ojibwe hunted large game for subsistence. Health Canada stopped the regular monitoring of mercury levels in the Grassy Narrows community in 1999. So you take care of the people first then you design the facility around that,” said Cardinal. In 1986, both the federal government and the province of Ontario enacted legislation to carry out the terms of the settlement. However, the three-decade-old agreement has no provision to adjust the payments for inflation. To him, restoring people's connection to the land is what matters most. (The airborne release of mercury by the mill continued until 1975.). Today, a recently translated report by Japanese mercury expert, Dr. Harada reveals that the Grassy Narrows people are worse off than they were 40 years ago when he first visited the community to study the impacts of mercury poisoning.When Dr. Harada returned in 2004, he found that 43% of his original Grassy Narrows patients were now dead. In November 1985, Wabaseemoong Independent Nations (formerly Islington, formerly Whitedog) and Grassy Narrows First Nation negotiated an out of court settlement with the federal government, the province of Ontario, and two paper companies (Reed Incorporated and Great Lakes Forest Products Limited) for all claims due to mercury contamination in the English and Wabigoon river systems. The Mercury Disability Board supervises the administration of the Fund and oversees a claims and appeals process that is available to all Wabaseemoong and Grassy Narrows band members or those who are registered Indians who were customarily resident on one of the two reserves before the first day of October 1985. For almost 50 years, the river system—a foundational element of the Grassy Narrows culture—-that the community relies on for food and water has been contaminated with mercury as a result of industrial pollution. The fur trade shifted this practice toward trapping smaller animals and trading their furs. Closed Captioning and Described Video is available for many CBC shows offered on CBC Gem. The people of Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishnabek (Grassy Narrows First Nation) are now one step closer to justice. In 2010 the Harada team examined 160 adults from Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong, as White Dog is now named. My kids have mercury poisoning. The SCC ruled that Ontario is allowed to exercise the rights and … Tap water that is contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals. While some value direct action on the ground, others feel the court-system is a better avenue for protecting their land (ibid). "Our community members have suffered for so long," Grassy Narrows First Nation Chief Randy Fobister said in a recent interview. "Mercury Pollution in First Nations Groups in Ontario, Canada: 35 years of Canadian Minamata Disease" was published in Japanese in the Journal of Minamata Studies in 2011. Shane Pennells originates from Grassy Narrows First Nation in Ontario. The report, released in English today in Toronto, outlines the long-term effects on people who lived along the Wabigoon-English River system in northwestern Ontario. Between 1962 and 1970 mercury was dumped by a chemical plant at a Dryden paper mill into the river system … Click on the Application and Re-Application link for more information. OTTAWA — New money for a treatment centre for those living with the effects of chronic mercury poisoning comes as a ray of hope for a northern Ontario First Nation that has spent the past six decades in the shadow of a decades-old water contamination scandal. Residents of Grassy Narrows First Nation, about 100 kilometres northeast of Kenora, Ont., have grappled with long-standing mental and physical health issues due to toxic mercury levels in the nearby English-Wabigoon River. The compensation results from an agreement the bands reached with the federal and Ontario governments, which had long been in denial about the effects of the dumped mercury on human health. He explained that the mercury poisoning victims in Japan received $800,000 US as compensation in 1973 and continue to receive $2,000 to $8,000 per month, also based on the severity of symptoms. Two years ago, Japanese scientists who have been studying the effects of mercury poisoning for over 50 years, returned to Ontario. Fobister, now 60 years old, receives $250 dollars per month as compensation. The Grassy Narrows people have a special relationship to the river. The Indigenous community of Grassy Narrows, Canada, has been devastated by mercury poisoning. Members of Wabaseemoong Independent Nations and Grassy Narrows First Nation whose health may have been affected by mercury poisioning in the English and Wabigoon river systems may be entitled to an award from the Mercury Disability Fund. Shoon Keewatin, 57, a resident of Grassy Narrows north of Kenora, recalls a happy youth in the area. In Canada, the board designates payments from $250 to $800 per month. I think of them a lot, and they took that away.". The lead author of the report, Masazumi Harada, began researching the effects of mercury poisoning in Minamata, Japan, in 1961. KENORA – Grassy Narrows First Nation is getting a treatment centre for Mercury poisoning and issues resulting from long-term exposure to the element from the waters of the English River – Wabigoon Water system. The Grassy Narrows & Islington Band Mercury Disability Board. His mother had mercury poisoning in her system when she gave birth to her son, Shane. A river poisoned with mercury. The Grassy Narrows & Islington Band Mercury Disability Board. First Nations people from Grassy Narrows, Ont., continue to suffer the effects of mercury poisoning more than 40 years after commercial fishing was closed, a new report shows. We have to maintain what we are.". Grassy Narrows wanted the government to set up a $88.7-million trust to pay for construction and maintenance of a survivor’s home as well as a care centre for people with mercury poisoning. He did note that for outsiders, eating one or two fish from the lake isn’t harmful now. History of Mercury Poisoning in Canada ( Grassy Narrows and Whitedog reverves ) Mercury toxic condition in Canada was accorded the necessary attending after the people of Grassy Narrows and whitedog militias were affected by this on-going threat at the clip. Since then, people have received mixed messages about whether the fish is safe to eat, but many still do. For a person to be eligible to apply for benefits (per legislation), that person must be a current member of Grassy Narrows First Nation or Wabaseemoong Independent Nations; a past member of one of the two bands; or a registered Indian who was customarily resident on one the two first nation communities prior to the first day of October 1985. that since inception to March 31, 2020 the Mercury Disability Board has processed 1489 initial applications for benefits. For the two First Nations, the fish were the main food source and the commercial fishery and related tourism businesses were their main livelihood. In fact it is tortuous ! Masanori Hanada, the director of the Centre for Minamata Studies in Japan, and one of the keys authors of the report, spoke to Porter with the aid of a translator. A First Nation of about 650 people near Ontario’s border with Manitoba, Grassy Narrows’ water was contaminated by tonnes of mercury dumped into its water system by an upstream paper mill. CBC's Journalistic Standards and Practices. Grassy narrows unveiled its plan for the Mercury Survivors Home and Care Centre to care or those suffering from mercury poisoning. He told Porter, "we hope the future generations can make a change and find different opportunities. The settlement provided for the establishment of a Mercury Disability Fund and a Mercury Disability Board. My grandkids have mercury poisoning,” Grassy Narrows elder Bill Fobister said in December 2019. He is losing his sense of balance, his ankles are numb, and he suffers dizzy spells. After years of advocacy by the communities, … Grassy Narrows has been suffering from mercury poisoning since the 1960s, when the pulp and paper mill in Dryden, Ontario dumped 9,000 kilograms in the Wabigoon River. Now I can't, because every time I go in the bush, I have to grab a stick for balance, and I make lots of noise.". The Harada report found that for Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong combined, only one quarter "of those whom we diagnosed or deemed suspicious of Minamata Disease were officially approved" for compensation. Sept. 2016: Japanese experts in mercury poisoning report that 90 per cent of the population of Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong First Nations show signs of exposure to the toxin, including people born years after the dumping of mercury ended. The mercury originated in the 1960s from a chemical and pulp mill in Dryden, Ont., owned by Reed Paper Co. From there it got into the English-Wabigoon River System and then into the fish. It is a priority for CBC to create a website that is accessible to all Canadians including people with visual, hearing, motor and cognitive challenges. MERCURY POISONING . They migrated northward and westward during the late 17th and early 18th centuries in search of animals to supply the fur trade. "Our citizens have not been compensated adequately," Simon Fobister, the current Grassy Narrows chief told CBC news. In the case of mercury poisoning, as has happened at Grassy Narrows, the procedure lasts years and is anything but painless. Although lower, the mercury levels in fish continue to be above safe levels and people downstream from Dryden continue to have the symptoms of Minamata disease — even people born long after the mercury dumping had ended. (personal observation) 28 Sept 2012)1. Their first research visit to the northwest region of the province had been in 1975. The people of Grassy Narrows have been told by doctors that they are sick. Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous … The agreement was reached in 1985 and it provided for a Mercury Disability Board to dispense payments from a fund to which the governments, as well as Reed Paper and Great Lakes Forest Products Ltd., which took over the mill from Reed, made a one-time only contribution. Strangely, though, 90 per cent of the people of Grassy Narrows still suffer from mercury poisoning, at the highest levels in Ontario. Simon and Steve Fobister are cousins. The mercury problem was identified in 1969, and in 1970 the government order Reed Paper to stop releasing mercury into the water system and closed the local fishery. Ancestors of the northern Ojibwe are thought to have originally inhabited the north shore of the upper Great Lakes. Steve Fobister, the former chief of Grassy Narrows, has severe disabilities from mercury poisoning. The people of Grassy Narrows First Nation in northwest Ontario have been hard-hit by mercury poisoning, after the government allowed a pulp mill to dump 10 tons of waste into a river in the 1960s. Other symptoms include muscle weakness, numbness or stinging pain. First Nations people from Grassy Narrows, Ont., continue to suffer the effects of mercury poisoning more than 40 years after commercial fishing was closed, a new report shows. If you are a community member of either Wabaseemoong Independent Nations or Grassy Narrows First Nation or a registered Indian who was customarily resident on one of the two affiliated reserves before the first day of October 1985 and believe that you may be affected by mercury contamination from the English and Wabigoon river systems, you may be eligible for an award. Mercury, is a potent neurotoxin, and has sickened generations who consider walleye a dietary staple. Mercury poisoning impairs peripheral vision, hearing, speech, and cognitive function. 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