Grassy Narrows aboriginals protest Ontario govt. inaction on mercury poisoning.

The poisoning actually happened back in the sixties and seventies but the natives are demanding more action by the Ontario government. Recent tests by a Japanese doctor show that the population is still suffering from the effects of the poisoning even though the level of mercury in the waterways are now much reduced and within allowable limits. The federal government claims the situation is under control but the medical study shows there are still health problems.

Protesters demand action on Grassy Narrows

Brendan Kennedy



BRENDAN KENNEDY/TORONTO STAR

...

Grassy Narrows First Nation is a community of nearly 1,000 people about an hour's drive northeast of Kenora.

"We still have a long journey to go to make the water clean again, to make the land alive again," Da Silva said.

The protestors accuse the McGuinty government of not taking responsibility for allowing the Dryden Pulp & Paper Co. to dump 9,000 kg of mercury into the Wabigoon River between 1962 and 1970.

They called on the provincial government to acknowledge the long-term effects of mercury poisoning on the community, and demanded the federal government strengthen mercury regulations.

The protest comes a day after a newly translated study of Grassy Narrows by Japanese scientist Dr. Masazumi Harada showed 79 per cent of 187 people tested in 2002 and 2004 had or may have had Minimata disease, a condition arising from exposure to methyl-mercury. Tremors, tunnel vision, impaired hearing and speech and loss of muscular co-ordination and sensation in the extremities are hallmarks of the condition.

Harada first tested community members in 1975. He found people with mercury levels over three times the Health Canada limit in Grassy Narrows and seven times the limit in White Dog. When Harada returned in 2004, the people he tested in 1975 with mercury levels in their bodies considered above health guidelines were dead.

While the federal and provincial governments say contamination is no longer a problem, Harada's research indicates the possibility of congenital Minamata disease is high, said Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse. Children are being born with neurological problems, mental deficiency and cerebral palsy, he said.

Premier Dalton McGuinty said Tuesday the province has a "heavy responsibility" to study Harada's findings, because they conflict with the federal government's claim that mercury poisoning at Grassy Narrows is under control.

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