KENORA – The ongoing mercury woes besetting Grassy Narrows First Nation are yet another failure of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government, according to Kenora’s Conservative member of Parliament.

“After nine years of Trudeau, everything he touches is broken and full of delays,” Eric Melillo told NWOnewswatch in an email this week.

“It’s been seven years since the Liberals started making commitments to the residents of Grassy Narrows,” Melillo said.

“His response to members of the community who have been left waiting is to have them removed from events and sarcastically thank them for their donations,” he said, referring to the prime minister’s response to a protester at a 2019 fundraising event in Toronto.

The press secretary for Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu countered by saying Melillo “doesn’t seem to be aware of crucial information” and “has never reached out to the government” for Grassy Narrows in his six years representing the riding that includes the Treaty 3 community.

“If Mr. Melillo had any interest in the file, he’d have known that the money needed to build and operate the mercury care home has already been committed,” Jennifer Kozelj said from Ottawa.

“We are in the final discussions with the community to settle the remaining details, and construction should start shortly.”

The “mercury care home” Kozelj referenced is a treatment centre pledged for Grassy Narrows in 2019 but since delayed by funding issues.

Mercury poisoning in Grassy Narrows hit a critical point in the 1970s after a pulp and paper mill in Dryden discharged tonnes of mercury into the Wabigoon River between 1962 and 1970.

The mercury got into fish that were eaten by Grassy Narrows members, who fell ill with tremors, headaches, cognitive problems and other symptoms.

Though the mill’s effluent hasn’t contained mercury in decades, it does contain sulphates and organic matter that scientists say stimulate the production of methylmercury (the most dangerous form of mercury) out of the mercury still lingering in area waters.

“The chemistry of water that’s being discharged from the mill in Dryden today is amplifying the mercury problem above what we would expect it to be if that discharge were not occurring,” Western University biologist Brian Branfireun told Dougall Media last week.

A study published in 2022 found mercury poisoning continues to have a profound impact on the physical and mental health of people in Grassy Narrows.

Three Quebec scientists won the Radio-Canada Scientist of the Year award a few months ago for that study.

By Mike Stimpson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on May 29, 2024 at 09:28

This item reprinted with permission from   Thunder Bay Source   Thunder Bay, Ontario
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