The Canadian Press
TORONTO — Leaders from a Northern Ontario First Nation are urging the federal and Ontario governments to commit to building and funding a mercury treatment centre in their community.
Mercury contamination has plagued the English-Wabigoon River system in northwestern Ontario for half a century, since a paper mill in Dryden, Ont., dumped 9,000 kilograms of the substance into the river systems in the 1960s.
Researchers have reported that more than 90 per cent of the people in the nearby Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong First Nation show signs of mercury poisoning.
Community leaders are set to meet Wednesday with Ontario Indigenous Relations Minister David Zimmer and federal Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott, who has so far committed to a feasibility study for a mercury treatment centre.
But Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister is frustrated that there hasn’t been a firm commitment to the treatment centre itself, saying his years-long efforts to push for one feel like a dog chasing its tail.
Premier Kathleen Wynne told The Canadian Press from China, where she is on a trade mission, that a mercury disability board will have to help determine next steps and noted the province has earmarked $85 million to remediate the mercury contamination.