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First Nations youth walk across Ontario to raise attention to Mercury poisoning

Grassy Narrows to hold River Run protest in Toronto

by Tim Groves
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On June 5th, a group of six First Nations youth completed an over 19,000 km walk from Grassy Narrows to downtown Toronto. They undertook the 38 day journey to raise awareness of mercury poisoning that effects their community and the land rights of First Nations. 

Ten tonnes of mercury were dumped into the Wabigoon River by the Dryden paper mill between 1962 and 1970. Grassy Narrows and other downstream communities are still feeling the health impacts. 

"We walked to raise awareness about mercury spilling in the lakes around Grassy Narrows, and in North America in general".  Said Cliford Acoby, a young man from Swan Lake Manitoba who made the walk.  "As youth we are well aware of what the government is doing to our lakes and environment". 

Along the walk they visited several towns and First Nations communities. 

"Each community we went to, we tried to encouraged them to stop the trucks [from dumping waste in rivers], and give them courage to  speak up and use their voices" explained Acoby. 

"It was a healing journey too, it gives you a chance to dig deep in your self." 

When the walkers arrived in Grange park about 40 supporters joined them for a barbecue. 

That evening 150 people packed the Steel workers hall to hear speakers talk about the struggle of people in Grassy Narrows. 

"I am really proud of those young people that walked," Judy Da Silva, a mother and blockader from Grassy Narrows told the crowd. 

"All these chemicals are affecting us, and I worry about the young women, our baby carriers" said Da Silva, "Nothing is changing we are still here and we are still feeling the effects".  

On Wednesday June 6th members of the community are holding a fish fry on the south lawn of Queens Park. 

On Friday June 9th a large festive march they have called a River Run.  According to a press release they "will deploy 15,000 square feet of blue fabric rippling in the wind to create a wild river that will flow to Queen’s Park to demand justice, accompanied by traditional drummers, and by colourful fish puppets. "

The River Run will be meeting at noon in Grange Park : Starting at Grange Park (behind the AGO on Beverly south of Dundas).

A previous River Run march was reported on by the Toronto Media Co-op in 2010. 

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