Ontario reneges on logging promise at Grassy Narrows

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Grassy Narrows First Nation’s decades-long battle to curb mercury poisoning in their community encountered a disturbing setback this holiday season, courtesy of the Ontario government. Premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals approved plans for 10 more years of clear-cut logging in the already decimated sections of mature forest surrounding the community located 80 km north of Kenora.

Home to the longest-running Native logging blockade in Canadian history, the Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation, has grappled with the effects of industrial mercury poisoning since the 1970s. Dryden Chemicals Inc. dumped upwards of 15,000 pounds of mercury into area waterways during that decade, leading to devastating long-term environmental damage that continues to wreak havoc on the health of community members.

Now, new logging plans will bring clear-cutting within a kilometre of the reserve’s boundary. The community fears the project will release mercury from damaged soils and again contaminate nearby waterways. For Chief Simon Fobister, the government’s actions are a far cry from Wynne’s 2012 claim that her party would improve the situation in Grassy Narrows and “get it right.”

“Premier Wynne, it is within your power to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated at the expense of another generation of Grassy Narrows children,” Chief Fobister said in a press release. “I call on you to intervene to repeal this hurtful plan and to ensure that never again will Ontario attempt to force decisions on our people and our lands.”

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