Grassy Narrows will receive US$68.9 million from Ottawa for Mercury Care Home


After decades of just fighting, Grassy Narrows First Nation and Ottawa reached a historic agreement that will provide $68.9 million in additional funding for a facility dedicated to caring for members of the mercury-poisoned community.

The agreement announced on Monday was reached almost 60 years after mercury From Dryden Pulp and Paper Mill It was originally dumped in the Wabigon River in the upper reaches of the aboriginal northwest of Ontario.

For decades, the residents of Grassy Narrows, about 80 kilometers north of Kenora, have been dealing with mercury pollution, which has affected the physical and mental health of approximately 1,500 people, as well as the life and culture of the community.

“This is an important milestone for my people, on our path to dignified care and full mercury justice for our people. I pay tribute to many of our community members who have worked hard for decades to make All this happened in all difficulties,” Grassy Narrows chief Randy Forbist said in a written statement.

Aboriginal Services Minister Mark Miller announced and signed a binding agreement in Grassy Narrows that will cover the long-term cost of providing care and services at the institution.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to meet Chief Randy Fobister at Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek to strengthen Canada’s commitment to the community and its leadership; to acknowledge the recommendations of its community health assessment report; to support the construction, operation, and maintenance of mercury care homes And professional services; and to ensure that the immediate and long-term health needs of the community are met,” Miller said in a written statement.

Mercury Care Home is expected to open in 2023 and can accommodate 22 “mercury patients”. According to the indigenous people, it will provide outpatient services for Grassy Narrows members who deal with many aspects of mercury poisoning.

It is estimated that 90% of the population of Grassy Narrows, a native of Ojibwe, has symptoms of mercury poisoning. They include neurological problems, from numbness in the fingers and toes to seizures and cognitive delays.

The signs posted on Grassy Narrows show the reality of mercury pollution in daily life. In the 1960s and early 1970s, the chemical plant of the Reed Paper plant in Dryden, Ontario dumped 9,000 kilograms of mercury into the English Wabigon River. The members of Grassy Narrows usually include fish in their diet. (Logan Turner/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation)

“Minister Miller has promised Grassy Narrows that Canada will be there as a partner to ensure that our loved ones who have suffered mercury poisoning receive the good care they need at Mercury Care Home for as long as they need it,” Forbester said. “I respect Minister Miller’s important step today to keep his promise.

“We hope that Canada will continue to fulfill this sacred commitment, and we will ensure this. Our work is not done yet. There is still much work to be done to restore the damage that mercury has caused to our communities.”

Start construction in 2022

The agreement was reached after years of discussion and setbacks, and it has been gaining momentum since 2017 when the Canadian Ministry of Aboriginal Services promised to build the facility.

In April 2020, Grassy Narrows and the federal government reached an agreement to build a reserve nursing facility.

At that time, the Canadian Department of Aboriginal Services pledged to provide 19.5 million Canadian dollars for the construction, as they worked hard to obtain additional funds for the operation of the facility.

In 2020, Canada signed the Mercury Nursing Home Framework Agreement, which promised Canada to provide funding for the construction and long-term operation of the facility in accordance with Grassy Narrows’ plan.

The framework agreement announced on Monday was revised. It now promises to provide funding in the form of a one-time payment.

“Recognizing the uncertainty about whether this funding is sufficient, today’s agreement includes a way to increase funding in the future if more funding is needed to run the facility and ensure that the care needs of mercury patients are met in the long term,” Grassy Narrows posted a message Say.

According to Aboriginal people, the $68.9 million announced on Monday was calculated based on the 2018 feasibility study estimate of the amount needed to run Mercury Care Home.

Preparations for Mercury Care Home are in progress. The construction plan for Grassy Narrows will begin in the spring of 2022.



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