Between 1962 and 1970, the Reed Paper Plant in Dryden, Ontario (located upstream from Asubpeeschoseewagong, also known as Grassy Narrows First Nation) dumped 9,000 kg of mercury into the English-Wabigoon River, contaminating the water and freshwater fish that residents of Grassy Narrows rely on as a dietary staple.
60 years later, the effects of mercury poisoning from eating contaminated fish have been devastating. Common health issues include hearing and visual impairments, difficulty learning, and premature death.
High rates of resource extraction have devastating impacts on the natural environment. In the early 2000s, an explosion of clear-cut logging damaged important hunting and medicine gathering areas, and contributed to alarming levels of toxic mercury in the water. The people of Grassy Narrows have led the longest-running blockade against industrial activities like mining and logging in Canadian history. Reaffirming their inherent rights, community members passed a Land Declaration in 2018 prohibiting all industrial extraction. More recently, Grassy Narrows has had to enforce the Land Declaration in a struggle with the Ontario government over mining exploration permits that were granted without community consent.
In 2021, the federal government finally announced a commitment of $68.9 million to fund the long-term operation and maintenance of a mercury care home, which Grassy Narrows residents have spent decades advocating for.
Now, Grassy Narrows is focused on receiving fair compensation for the harms they’ve experienced as a result of corporate pollution and decades of government negligence. Most Grassy Narrows people currently get no compensation and many struggle to meet health and living costs. It is long past time that Grassy Narrows gets justice.