Environmental and labour leaders echo calls from Grassy Narrows First Nation for immediate river cleanup

TORONTO, ONTARIO — (Marketwired — July 7, 2016) — Prominent labour and environmental leaders delivered a canoe filled with more than 35,000 letters and petitions calling on Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne to immediately commit to clean up Grassy Narrows’ mercury-contaminated river.

“Last month Grassy Narrows youth and elders travelled 1,700 kilometers to call on Premier Wynne to clean up the mercury in their river. Today we carry the voices of 35,000 people who echo Grassy Narrows’ cry for justice. Clean the river, clean it now,” said Rachel Plotkin, Ontario Science Projects Manager, David Suzuki Foundation.

The signatures delivered today were collected from petitions and online actions from Leadnow.ca, the David Suzuki Foundation, Amnesty International, and the Council of Canadians.

“Premier Wynne has said cleaning up the mercury is too risky, but her government has failed to produce any evidence showing the methods proposed by scientists are unsafe. It’s time for Ontario to stop making excuses and commit to cleaning the river,” said Amara Possian, Leadnow.ca Campaign Manager.

On Monday, the Toronto Star reported that the government could provide no evidence to suggest that a “clean clay suspension” remediation effort would be unsafe, despite repeated comments from the Premier and senior government officials citing concerns about the safety of a cleanup as the reason for the province’s inaction.

“Indigenous people deserve to live and work in safe communities. If non-Aboriginal people and families were being poisoned, there is no doubt there would have been action a long time ago. The decades of inaction by successive governments is a stain on Canada’s human rights and environmental record,” said Marie Clarke Walker, Executive Vice-President, Canadian Labour Congress.

Decades ago, 9,000 kg of mercury was dumped into the English-Wabigoon River system, which flows into the Grassy Narrows First Nation. The poisoning destroyed a local economy based on fishing, and caused an ongoing health crisis.

“People are dying and getting sick, and scientists tell us it’s possible to make the river safe again. So why is it taking so long for the government to commit to a full river clean-up?” said Mark Calzavara, Ontario-Quebec Organizer, Council of Canadians.

“There are 107 MPP elected to Queen’s Park. Do you think they would ignore it if people in their home towns were being poisoned?” asked CUPE Ontario Aboriginal Council chair Dawn Bellerose. “How can the Premier apologize for the past while turning a blind eye to the atrocities happening under her own watch? It’s time to bring an end to government sanctioned abuses of First Nations people. It is time for Premier Wynne to deliver more than pretty words.”

Media Contact: Jolan Bailey — National Organizer, Leadnow.ca — jolan@leadnow.ca — 604-441-6916