Tag Archives: Grassy Narrows

Supreme Court says companies must pay for mercury-contaminated mill site at Grassy Narrows

Ontario government ordered 2 companies to do remedial work 8 years ago

Two companies are on the hook for looking after a mercury-contaminated site near Ontario’s Grassy Narrows First Nation, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled.

The 4-3 decision Friday brought some clarity to a long-running dispute over one element of the legacy of environmental poisoning that has caused significant health problems for many residents.

Eight years ago, the Ontario government ordered Weyerhaeuser Co. and a firm that later became Resolute Forest Products to care for a mercury waste-disposal site in Dryden, Ont., where toxic material from a pulp-and-paper mill’s operations entered the English-Wabigoon River system in the 1960s.

The order obligated the two companies to repair site erosion, do water testing, file annual reports, prevent any leaks and give the Ontario Environment Ministry $273,063 as financial assurance with respect to the site.

The companies claimed that an indemnity granted in 1985 to the owners of the paper facility at the time — part of a settlement with the Grassy Narrows and Islington First Nations — applied to them as well, but the province disagreed.

An Ontario judge ruled in favour of the companies in 2016, saying the language of the indemnity should cover the two subsequent owners as well.

However, the Ontario Court of Appeal found Resolute was not entitled to indemnification and said the lower court should decide whether it applied to Weyerhaeuser.

In its decision, the Supreme Court said the 1985 indemnity does not apply to the province’s 2011 environmental order, meaning the companies are liable for the costs of carrying it out.

A majority of the high court substantially agreed with the Ontario appeal-court’s reasoning, concluding the judge who initially heard the case made “palpable and overriding errors of fact.”

The Canadian Press · Posted: Dec 06, 2019


Grassy Narrows Mercury Protesters Dump Grey Liquid At Queen’s Park

Grassy Narrows mercury protesters dump grey liquid at Queen's Park

Grassy Narrows mercury protesters dump grey liquid at Queen’s Park

Protesters handcuffed by police, say the substance is corn starch with water and soluble paint

CBC | June 23, 2016

Grassy Narrows mercury poisoning protesters dumped grey liquid in front of Queen’s Park and then were taken into custody by police on Thursday morning.

The spill happened just before 10:30 a.m. in front of the steps to the legislature. Security asked people to move back from the liquid on to the lawn and then police pushed people back further to the south end of the lawn “for safety,” according to officers on scene.

Toronto fire are on scene trying to figure out what the substance is, but one protester told the crew that it’s corn starch with water and soluble paint.

One of the protestors told CBC News that if the spill were in Grassy Narrows “the government would take 50 years to find out what the grey stuff is.”

Grassy Narrows mercury protesters dump grey liquid at Queen's Park

The spill happened just before 10:30 a.m. in front of the steps to the legislature. (Mike Crawley/CBC)

A CBC News reporter saw the protestors handcuffed and taken away from the scene by police.

The south lawn of Queen’s Park is closed off as Toronto police, Toronto Fire and the Legislative Security Service investigate the grey substance.

The legislature has not been evacuated.

A CBC News reporter saw the protestors handcuffed and taken away from the scene by police. (Mike Crawley/CBC)

A CBC News reporter saw the protestors handcuffed and taken away from the scene by police. (Mike Crawley/CBC)

Mercury in waterways

In a report released in May, environmental scientists determined that there is an unknown source of mercury around where people in Grassy Narrows catch fish.

That prompted allegations there is a hidden pile of mercury barrels poisoning a northern Ontario river. Protesters charge that the mercury dumped in the waterways near the community has existed there for nearly 60 years and has never been cleaned up.

“We know that our river can be made safe,” Simon Fobister, a chief in the Grassy Narrows First Nation, said earlier this year. “Are our lives worth less than others to the government?”

Thursday morning, Premier Kathleen Wynne said her government is “determined” to solve the problem.

“If I had the ability to go to Grassy Narrows with a crew and clean that mercury up I would do it tomorrow,” Wynne told CBC’s Metro Morning.

The challenge, she said, “is that there’s been competing science. And right now there’s a report that says there may actually be a way to clean up the mercury that’s trapped in the sediment at the bottom of the lake and the river.”

However, the science she was given as minister for aboriginal affairs years ago suggested that disturbing the mercury could re-contaminate the water, she said.

The province is committed to finding a solution, she said. Ontario’s environment minister and a group of scientists are headed to the community next week, she said.

“If there is a new technique or methodology we will absolutely find a way to get that cleaned up,” Wynne said.


Grassy Narrows Declares State Of Emergency Over Unsafe Drinking Water

A beach in Grassy Narrows First Nation is shown. (grassynarrows.ca)

A beach in Grassy Narrows First Nation is shown. (grassynarrows.ca)

CTV News

The Grassy Narrows First Nation has declared a state of emergency over unsafe drinking water in the community.

The Ontario community also known as Asubpeechoseewagong is located approximately 300 kilometres east of Winnipeg.

In a statement issued Thursday morning, the community advised residents to consume bottled water until its drinking water is considered safe.

“The community is delivering bottled water door-to-door to ensure that their families, many of which have already been impacted by mercury poisoning, have safe drinking water,” the statement said.

The statement said that drinking water tests completed by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment found turbidity at a level 120 times the safe limit. Turbidity refers to discolouration and particulate matter in the water.

Chemicals that are possible carcinogens were also found in elevated levels.

According to the statement, parts of the community have not been able to drink the tap water for two years due to elevated levels of uranium. The entire community has been under a “boil water” advisory for approximately one year.

In June 2015, a report commissioned by the Ontario government and Grassy Narrows found high mercury levels in the water supply.


Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy Calls On CN Rail To Back Down

Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy Calls on CN Rail to Back Down

Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy Calls on CN Rail to Back Down

Net Newsledger

TORONTO – Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy is calling on CN Rail to immediately drop injunction laid against Judy DaSilva, a Grassy Narrows First Nation member and a Michael Sattler Peace Prize recipient, and members of the Grassy Narrows Women’s Drum Group for exercising their inherent and Treaty rights. Those issued the injunction appear in a Kenora court tomorrow.

On April 10, the women hosted a traditional Anishinaabe Water Ceremony on the shores of Wild Lake, near the CN Mainline at Mile 106 where it crosses Highway 671 between Kenora and Grassy Narrows, a location where the rail line passes directly by several lakes and river tributaries running along the southern boundary of Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows) traditional territory and multiple Anishinaabe families’ traplines.

The purpose of the ceremony was to protect the local waterways from increasing threats posed by the constant transportation of tar sands bitumen, natural gas and other explosive and toxic chemicals through First Nations’ territories.

Originally, the Water Ceremony was planned to take place on the tracks. However, on April 8, community members received calls from CN Rail Police and CN Aboriginal and Tribal Relations Management officials promising a heavy-handed response and threatening arrests. In response to these threats and intimidation, a Grassy Narrows Elder asked that the ceremony be moved to a location beside, not on the tracks.

“CN Rail is wrong if they think this is an issue of the courts—instead, it is a matter of First Nations’ ability to exercise their Inherent and Treaty Rights as indicated in the First Nations in Ontario Assertion of Sovereignty – Notice of Assertion and other Indigenous laws First Nations have in place,” said Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy. “First Nations in Ontario will lose trust and confidence in CN Rail very fast if our pre-existing sovereignty and Indigenous laws are ignored and courts are used as the venue for building our relationship.”

On March 10, Ontario Regional Chief Beardy issued a similar News Release highlighting Canada’s ways of getting oil to market being in direct conflict with Indigenous rights and public safety after three CN rail derailments took place on First Nations’ traditional territories. “What must be understood is that First Nations will not and cannot stop their efforts to uphold their responsibility to protect their ancestral homelands—it is our genetic make-up, core values and principles,” he stated.

Construction of railways and rail lines began in Canada in the 19th century. The building of the Intercolonial Railway was a condition written into the Canada Constitution Act, 1867. At the time, Indigenous people did not give their free, prior and informed consent but they relied on the Treaties which outlined an understanding of the relationship of equality and non-interference, amongst other agreements.

“Canada and CN Rail cannot any longer get around the fact that rail lines are on Treaty lands,” stated Ontario Regional Chief Beardy. Currently, no provisions are in place to notify or consult First Nation communities about the transportation of hazardous material like crude oil, spent fuel, and other radioactive material shipped through their traditional territories.

This is in direct contravention of the government’s duty to consult and accommodate First Nations. “Viewing rail lines simply being situated on Crown land, and/or rights of way is simply no longer feasible for First Nations,” stated Ontario Regional Chief Beardy.

The 133 First Nations in Ontario will be gathering in Assembly from June 16 – 18 in the Wauzhushk Onigum First Nation in Treaty #3 at which time major infrastructure on Indigenous lands such as pipelines and railways will be deliberated.

In the meantime, Ontario Regional Chief Beardy is calling on CN Rail to not only drop the injunction against Judy DaSilva and other individuals at the Grassy Narrows Women’s Drum Group Water Ceremony, but strongly urge CN and Canada, seriously consider a new approach to dealing with First Nations as their business and corporate responsibility agenda moving forward.