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BACKGROUND ON GRASSY NARROWS
On April 6, 1970 the government of Ontario banned fishing on the Wabigoon River due to mercury contamination from a pulp mill in Dryden. Overnight unemployment in the area rose from 10% to 90%, a primary food staple was lost, and the devastating neurological health impacts of mercury poisoning set in. At the time the government said it would take months for the mercury to wash out of the river system. Yet forty years later the effects are still being revealed.
A newly translated Japanese study on the health of Grassy Narrows Asubpeeschoseewagong Anishinabek residents shows that while mercury levels are going down, the health impacts of mercury poisoning are substantially worse now than they were in the 1970’s. This has huge consequences for Grassy Narrows and the neighbouring communities. It also has important implications about the long- term cumulative health impacts of low level mercury exposure.
According to the Council of Canadians, private water companies have been aggressively pursuing new markets in Canadian First Nation communities. At the same time, the federal government is actively seeking new solutions for persistent water crises, like those faced in Grassy Narrows, in First Nation communities by seeking out the feasibility and desirability of public private partnerships. Over the years, the Federal funding for water infrastructure provided through the Ministry of Indian and Northern Affairs (INAC) has been inadequate to address urgent drinking water and wastewater treatment needs of First Nation communities. We already know that governments have a tendency to under-fund public services to allow for privatization to happen.
When privatisation of water occurs it is frequently accompanied by infrastructure neglect, cutbacks in jobs and a decline in a regulatory oversight often resulting in a threat to water quality rather than offering a solution. First Nations communities throughout Turtle island have already felt the direct impact of crumbling infrastructure, equipment malfunctions, and a lack of adequately trained and certified water system operators all of which result in inadequate water quality and ongoing boiling bans in place.
Unpacking the relationship between water privatisation and the quality of health is vital to understand the ongoing health issues confronting Aboriginal communities. As we are threatened with water privatization and commercialisation the health of women and the poor are at an increased risk. Elderly women living alone are among the poorest women in Canada, as are Aboriginal women and women with disabilities. Aboriginal women are amongst the poorest of all individuals in the country, with a poverty rate in 2000 of 36 percent, and are the most likely to raise children on their own (Statistics Canada, 2005) When a vital resource such as water, that gives us all life, is put up for sale or polluted the health and well-being of women and communities is directly impacted.
Help defend public water, fight for water protections. Speak out and send a message to the Provincial government today!
To find your MPP go to the CUPE Ontario home page www.cupe.on.ca. If you are not sure what your riding is go to http://fyed.elections.on.ca/fyed/en/form_page_en.jsp and put in your postal code.
For more info on Grassy Narrows and the struggle visit: www.freegrassy.org
March 25, 2010
40 years ago the Grassy Narrows Asubpeeschoseewagong Anishinabek people were poisoned by mercury from a paper mill that contaminated the river upstream. The community is still dealing with the ongoing health impacts of this avoidable disaster. It’s time to sound the alarm that this poison will affect everyone if we don’t stand together to protect our water.
Join CUPE Ontario, the Aboriginal Council, members of Grassy Narrows Asubpeeschoseewagong Anishinabek and the Council of Canadians to demand justice and protection of water, air and forests that give life. Show your support, and join us in the fight to protect public water.
TORONTO COMMUNITY EVENTS
PUBLIC FORUM – TUES April 6 @ 6:30pm
Steel Workers Hall, 25 Cecil St. (S of College, E of Spadina)
RIVER RUN, CREATIVE RALLY – WED April 7 @ Noon
Meet at Grange Park, Beverley St. south of Dundas and behind the AGO.
Together we will form a wild river that will flow to Queen’s park to deliver our demands on World Health Day. We invite Indigenous people to wear your regalia, others should dress in blue. Bring your flags!
Need more info? Want to organise for this event?
Contact: Denise Hammond, 3rd Vice-President, via email – [email protected]