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June 6, 2012 7:54 pm
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Toronto, ON — Six young people from Grassy Narrows First Nation have completed their 2000 km journey from their home community to Toronto.

Starting out from Grassy Narrows on April 29, the youth — Adrian Acoby, 23; Clifford Acoby, 24; Shanice Derosiers, 19; Jolene Hookimaw, 19; Edmond Jack, 17; and Ninoondawah Richard, 19 and driver support provided by Maryanne Swain and Maria Swain — arrived today to participate in Riverrun 2012, a week-long series of events to raise awareness about the legacy of displacement and destruction left by mercury poisoning and clear-cutting in Grassy Narrows’ traditional territory.

The Chiefs of Ontario supports Grassy Narrows and the actions taken by its young leaders to fight for their health and their future.

“The example set by these young people is inspiring. Here we have six youth fighting for their inherent rights as Indigenous Peoples and making sure that the voices of Grassy Narrows’ citizens are heard,” said Ontario Regional Chief Angus Toulouse.

The 9 metric tonnes of untreated mercury dumped into the English and Wabigoon rivers between 1962 and 1970 had a devastating effect on Grassy Narrows, whose citizens had relied on the lakes and rivers in their territory for food and jobs. The community’s fishery had to be shut down due to high levels of mercury found in the local fish population leading to 90 per cent unemployment.

The Peoples of Grassy Narrows also began to suffer the effects of mercury poisoning, and still suffer these effects today. An independent study conducted by Dr. Masazumi Harada — a leading expert on the effects of mercury poisoning — discovered that many residents are suffering from the effects of long-term exposure to mercury.

These affected residents shake uncontrollably, experience tunnel vision or limited eyesight, have poor balance or are unable to walk. Mothers are passing on high levels of mercury to their unborn children.

In addition to dealing with the legacy of mercury poisoning, Grassy Narrows has been locked in a decade long battle with the Ministry of Natural Resources over clear-cutting in their traditional lands. The community scored a partial victory last year when Ontario Superior Court ruled in favour of Grassy Narrows, stating that Ontario could not nullify their Treaty rights by allowing industrial logging activity in their territory without their consent. The case is currently being appealed by the Ministry of Natural Resources, and all logging has been suspended north of the English River.

“The federal and provincial government’s callous disregard for the health and well-being of the Grassy Narrows community is appalling,” said the Regional Chief. “The poverty and ill health currently being experienced by Grassy Narrows’ citizens are the direct consequences of unregulated development, and disregarding the community’s right to free, prior and informed consent on activities that occur within their traditional territory.”

The Regional Chief will be speaking at a press conference in support of Grassy Narrows on Monday, June 4 at 11 am, along with Chief Simon Fobister, Grassy Narrows mother and activist Judy Da Silva and the Grassy Narrows Youth.

For more information please contact:

Andre Morriseau, Media Relations

Phone: 416-580-9320
Email: andre@coo.org

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