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Almost half a century ago, a pulp and paper company dumped tons of mercury into the English Wabigoon River system in Northwestern Ontario.
The health and livelihood of people of the Grassy Narrows Reserve between Kenora and Winnipeg is still being harmed these many years later. The mercury is still buried in the sediment of lakes and rivers, and the effects of the poison continues to harm the health of people in the community.
A delegation from the Grassy Narrow Reserve north of Kenora travelled to Toronto this week to call on Ontario Premier Wynne to finally clean up the toxic, dangerous mess.
Three days of events began on May 31. It was held at Ryerson University, and featured elders from the community; activist and journalist Avi Lewis; and Grassy Narrows Youth performing their original song, "Home to Me."
Order of speakers:
Opening: Andrea Chrisjon
Chief Simon Fobister Sr: Simon Fobister Sr. has been Chief of Grassy Narrows for most of the last decade and during the 1980s. He has been a strong advocate for mercury justice, and for control over Grassy Narrows' forests and community affairs. He brings a depth of knowledge and first hand experience as a leader in a community that has been hit hard by mercury poison and has emerged as a leading voice for environmental justice and Indigenous rights. He is the father of 5 sons and many grandchildren. He is a hunter/trapper and knows the land very well and is also a very gentle man.
Judy Da Silva: Judy da Silva is a member of the Grassy Narrows First Nations Community and internationally recognized environmental activist. In 2013, she received Michael Sattler Peace Prize from the German Mennonite Peace Committee to honour her efforts to halt and reverse the environmental destruction of the Grassy Narrows traditional territory. She also went to the United Nations in Geneva this year to make a presentation to Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, presenting the case that Canada had failed to protect their community's right to safe drinking water.
Youth performance: Song: Home to Me
Youth singer (Darwin) speaks
Avi Lewis: Avi Lewis is one of Canada's most eloquent and controversial media personalities. He is the director of the feature documentaries This Changes Everything (2015) and The Take (2004). He has also been a local news reporter, music journalist, debate show host, documentary filmmaker, public speaker, and activist. In all of these roles, he has created space to bring more radical voices and ideas to the mainstream for over 25 years.