Grassy Narrows First Nation chief not ‘a believer’ in PM’s reconciliation pledge

Grassy Narrows First Nation chief not ‘a believer’ in PM’s reconciliation pledge

OTTAWA — An Ontario First Nation suffering from generations of mercury poisoning still needs a treatment centre and help for children harmed by the toxic metal, its chief said Wednesday.

Until Grassy Narrows gets aid Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised, its Chief Rudy Turtle said, he won’t think much of Trudeau’s commitment to reconciliation.

A few blocks away in a downtown Ottawa hotel, Trudeau told an assembly of First Nations chiefs on Tuesday that his Liberal government “will start from a place of partnership” with Indigenous people, recognizing their rights without being dragged to it by courts, and seeking to make that a precedent for all future Canadian governments.

“When I hear him say that, first of all, I am not really a believer,” Turtle told a news conference on Parliament Hill.

“If he is serious about having a legacy, then it is time that he meet with Grassy Narrows, that he meet with the chief and council, that he meet with our people, that he stand in front of our people and talk to our people.”

Turtle, speaking alongside others from his community near Ontario’s border with Manitoba, said Grassy Narrows really needs its treatment facility for people with mercury poisoning. Their local river was doused with waste mercury from an upstream chemical plant for years in the 1960s and 1970s, contaminating the water, the fish that live in it, and the people who consumed both.

The symptoms of mercury poisoning include impaired peripheral vision, muscle weakness, impaired speech, hearing and cognitive function and numbness or stinging pain in the extremities and mouth. The damage from prolonged exposure can be irreversible.

Staff from Grassy Narrows met Tuesday with Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott to discuss progress on the mercury treatment facility, Turtle added.

“We would like it to move faster,” he said.

Philpott said in a statement late Wednesday the government is actively working to support the construction of the facility and thanked the community for presenting a completed feasibility study last week. She said the community and the government agreed to stay in close contact on the project.

The chief was also joined by Donna Mergler, a neurophysiologist affiliated with the Universite du Quebec a Montreal and the lead author of a newly released report documenting the impacts of mercury on Grassy Narrows’ young people.

The report details how mercury exposure, particularly in utero, compounds the physical and mental health problems that are consistently reported in First Nations communities in Canada. Mergler recommended that Grassy Narrows get better food and extra school resources to help children born with mercury-related disabilities.

Judy Da Silva, a mother from the community, said on Parliament Hill that she’s concerned about Grassy Narrows’ next generation.

“I am a mother of five children,” she said, pausing to note her own deteriorating health before she sat down in a chair. ”I worry about their future and for me that’s why I keep pushing myself … I know it is a hard fight.”

Earlier Wednesday, Philpott spoke at length at the second day of the AFN’s meeting in Ottawa on the Liberal government’s commitment to First Nations, including its proposed legislation on Indigenous child services. Last week, the federal government announced plans to introduce legislation on child services co-developed with Indigenous groups in the new year.

Families should not be torn apart because they are poor or because parents have health problems, she said.

“I don’t think any of us are naive,” she said. “We don’t think a piece of legislation will all by itself turn the tide on what’s going on in this country. But I believe it can be a turning point.”

Just Posted

Truck smashes through north Red Deer business

A medical emergency believed to have caused driver to lose control of pickup

Potential cannabis production plants must stay within Red Deer’s heavy industrial zones

Until odour control improves, they must be away from neighbourhoods, council decides

Whether to stop ticketing cars left on streets during snow plowing was discussed by Red Deer city council

Councillor suggests dropping fines for residents who sign up for notification system

Alberta’s Fair Deal Panel hosts town hall meeting in Red Deer

The provincial government’s panel examining Alberta’s role in Confederation has now heard… Continue reading

Greed drove former SNC exec’s alleged fraud, corruption scheme: Crown

MONTREAL — Summing up six weeks of testimony at the trial of… Continue reading

WATCH: CP Holiday Train supports Lacombe Food Bank

Madeline Merlo and JUNO Award nominee Scott Helman both performed

Your community calendar

Friday The Annual Old-Fashioned Country Christmas is being held Dec. 13 at… Continue reading

Opinion: City’s health-care needs ignored once again

Whether it’s services for those struggling with addictions, or patients who need… Continue reading

Eagles rally past Manning, Giants 23-17 in OT

PHILADELPHIA — Eli Manning isn’t done yet. Neither are the Philadelphia Eagles.… Continue reading

Freeland heads to Mexico in effort to finalize new NAFTA revisions

OTTAWA — Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland is to meet American and… Continue reading

Greed drove former SNC exec’s alleged fraud, corruption scheme: Crown

MONTREAL — Summing up six weeks of testimony at the trial of… Continue reading

No evidence presented in defence of man accused in B.C. high school stabbing

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — The defence lawyer for a man accused in… Continue reading

Court challenge to federal ban on needles for drug-using prisoners postponed

TORONTO — A court hearing to challenge the federal government’s ban on… Continue reading

Liberals move to start phasing in promised tax cuts in January 2020

OTTAWA — The Liberal government says Canadians will begin to see the… Continue reading

Most Read