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Ontario First Nation rejects forest management plan

Failure to consult and infringes on Aboriginal and Treaty Rights cited

31 October, 2013–Today Grassy Narrows Chief and Council sent an open letter to Premier Wynne rejecting Ontario’s Forestry Management Plan 2012 – 2022 for another decade of clear-cut logging on Grassy Narrows Territory.  The Forest Management plan for the Whiskey Jack Forest 2012-2022 is in the final stages of approval and is currently posted for public comment.  

The plan sets out a schedule to clear-cut much of what little mature forest remains on Grassy Narrows Territory after decades of large scale industrial logging.  This will further erode the Aboriginal, Treaty Rights and the ability of the community to sustain their families and to practice their culture through fishing, hunting, trapping, medicine harvesting, ceremony and healing for all generations.

“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,” said Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister.  “I call on you to ensure that never again will Ontario attempt to force decisions on our people and our lands.”

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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, Forests, Idle No More, Indigenous Peoples

A decade of resistance and renewal: First Nation celebrates longest running logging blockades in Canada

By Anna Willow, December 3, 2012.  Source: Media Coop

grassnarrowsOn December 3rd of 2002, members of Grassy Narrows First Nation launched a direct action blockade to prevent the passage of logging trucks and equipment through their traditional territory.  This December marks the 10th anniversary of the Grassy Narrows blockade, now the longest running logging blockade in Canadian history.  Located fifty miles north of Kenora (a small Canadian city on the north shore of Lake of the Woods), Grassy Narrows is a semi-remote Anishinaabe community with an on-reserve population near 950.  For generations, the people of Grassy Narrows have hunted, trapped, fished, and gathered throughout a vast 2,500-square-mile region drained by northwestern Ontario’s English-Wabigoon River system.  Not only their livelihood, but their culture, language, and spirituality are closely connected to their boreal forest homeland.

In the 1990s, as industrial logging intensified across Canada, Anishinaabe subsistence harvesters watched clearcuts grow larger and draw closer to their 14-square-mile reserve with growing unease.  They wrote letters to logging companies and government officials, but received no substantive response.  They conducted peaceful protests in Kenora, Toronto, and Montreal, but the clearcutting continued.  They requested environmental assessments and judicial reviews, but were only met with rejection and bureaucratic stalling.  It was time to take a stand.  One frigid early winter night, residents of Grassy Narrows decided enough was enough.  Three young community members placed logs across a snow-covered logging road north of the reserve.  They were soon joined by dozens of community leaders, teachers, and youth.

For most of us, ten years pass in the blink of an eye.  In the whirlwind of family, friends, work, and life that fills each day (3,652 of them in this case) we rarely pause to take stock of what has or hasn’t changed.  Anniversaries inspire this kind of reflection.  In ten years, children become teenagers.  Teenagers become adults and start families of their own.  Beloved elders depart.  And the rest of us continue traveling along the paths we choose—or the paths that choose us.  The blockade has stood for ten years, but Grassy Narrows residents have fought for the right to make decisions concerning their traditional territory and to keep their land-based culture alive for much longer.
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Filed under Actions / Protest, Corporate Globalization, Forests, Illegal logging, Independent Media, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Youth

Grassy Narrows marks 50 years of mercury poison on First Nations Lands

Grassy Narrows calls on Ontario to fund permanent community run environmental monitoring station

2010 study shows mercury in fish still often above safe level

Grassy Narrows –  Fifty years ago this month, in March 1962 Dryden Chemicals began dumping an estimated 10 metric tonnes of mercury into the Wabigoon River, contaminating the fish which formed the subsistence and economy of three Indigenous communities Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows), Wabaseemoong (White Dog), and some members of Wabauskang who lived at Quibell.  Half a century later residents of Grassy Narrows are still grappling with the long term health, social, and economic impacts of this infamous act of environmental racism.  Mercury levels in Grassy Narrows fish have yet to return to safe levels.

“The government has allowed the logging companies to destroy our forest and give us back only disease and sickness and death,” said Judy Da Silva, a mother and community organizer in Grassy Narrows.  “We are calling on McGuinty to help us establish a permanent Grassy Narrows run environmental monitoring station so we can inform and protect our people from the ongoing damage that pollution and logging are inflicting on our bodies and on our children.”

A 2010 study by Grassy Narrows for the First Nations Environmental Contaminants Program found that 100% of fish flesh samples from the English-Wabigoon river area had mercury levels above the level at which Health Canada recommends against consumption by people who consume a lot of fish (0.2mg/kg).  25% of samples were above the legal limit for commercially sold fish (0.5 mg/kg).   (Sellers, 2010)  An earlier study found levels as high as 140% over the legal limit in a Grassy Narrows fish (Sellers, 2005).  A wild foods study conducted by Hollow Water First Nation in nearby Manitoba found that concentrations of mercury in pickerel flesh there was far lower, and ranged from 0.12 – 0.30 mg/kg (Sellers and Scott, 2006).

“Grassy Narrows requires control over our land resources for our people to recover from the devastating impacts of mercury pollution on our health, culture, and economy,” said Grassy Narrows Chief Fobister.  “Our people have suffered far too long from harmful decisions imposed on our people against our will.”

An independent report by world renowned Japanese mercury expert Dr. Harada found that 79% of Grassy Narrows residents tested in 2002 and 2004 had Minamata Disease (MD), MD with complications, or possible MD (Harada et. Al, 2005).  Minamata Disease, a term for mercury poisoning, is named after the Japanese town of Minamata where Dr. Harada first exposed industrial mercury poisoning in the 1960’s.

This conflicts with Health Canada’s assertion from the 1990’s that 0% of Grassy Narrows patients examined were at risk due to the levels of mercury in their system, leading them to stop testing Grassy Narrows residents for mercury.  A report funded by Health Canada wrote that “there should be minimal concern for Hg in these two communities… the communities are encouraged to promote the use [of] local fish resources.”  (Chan, 2003)

And yet, in 2007 an independent Grassy Narrows fisherman was charged and pled guilty in a Kenora court to one count of unlawfully selling fish tainted by mercury contamination, contrary to the Ontario Fish Inspection Act.  MNR conservation officers from the Kenora District discovered the nets set in Grassy Narrows Lake, near the community, on Sept. 4, 2005.  Forensic tests on the fish, done at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in Winnipeg, revealed mercury levels of 1.0 parts per million, twice the acceptable level of 0.5 parts per million (Kenora Daily Miner, 2007).  320 pounds of fish from Grassy Narrows Lake were seized in the incident and the retailer was ordered to dispose of the fish, which was later dumped at the Kenora waste transfer station.

“We know too well the tragic consequences of failing to listen when the people of Grassy Narrows say no to destructive industry on their lands,” said David Sone of the environmental group Earthroots.  “It is time for Ontario to stop repeating the mistakes of the past and to respect Grassy Narrows’ vision for the the land they always have used and cared for.  We cannot allow the Province to be complicit in the poisoning of even one more Grassy Narrow child.”

Starting in March 1962 Dryden Chemicals Limited, a subsidiary of Reed Paper limited, operated a cathode chlor-alkali plant that produced chlorine and sodium hydroxide for the bleaching of paper (Shkynik, 1985). The mercury chlor-alkali plant was demolished in 1971 (EBR Registry Number:   011-3797, 2011).

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Filed under Climate Change, Corporate Globalization, Indigenous Peoples, Pollution, Water

Petition of Support for Grassy Narrows and Surrounding Communities Affected by Mercury and Other Contamination in their call for a National Inquiry

We are supporting Grassy Narrows First Nation and nearby mercury-affected communities in their call for a National Inquiry into the historic and continuing impact of mercury poisoning and other

This Inquiry is necessary as a result of continued pressure on the Grassy Narrows community from industrial forestry, the devastation of their traditional economy and livelihood, and continuing health
impacts. The health of community members in Grassy Narrows and nearby
mercury-affected communities continues to deteriorate. Two generations
after the Dryden pulp mill released pollution into the English-Wabigoon
river system, children are still being born with health problems from
mercury and other contamination.

As we find ourselves upon the 8th anniversary of the blockade against clearcutting in Grassy Narrows’ territory, and following upon AFN Resolution No. 04/2010, Support for Grassy Narrows and Other Mercury Impacted Communities,

1. WE CALL ON the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario to
hold a National Inquiry to assess the historic and continuing impact of mercury and other contamination in Grassy Narrows and the surrounding communities, to evaluate the success of efforts to date to address this issue, and make recommendations on effective next steps. We urge Canada and Ontario to each take responsibility, under their respective jurisdictions, by calling this inquiry by March 1, 2010

2. WE RESOLVE THAT, should Canada and Ontario fail to take their responsibility, the responsibility for holding this inquiry will fall upon First Nation governments and we will meet that responsibility. With the support of the Assembly of First Nations, a national inquiry would then be held under the jurisdiction of Grand Council Treaty #3 and Grassy Narrows First Nation.


Background on the pollution situation at Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong First Nations in Northern Ontario, Canada:


Grassy Narrows Health Study:


Canada’s Mercury Pollution on Indigenous Lands:


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Filed under Forests and Climate Change