The Ontario Legislature kicked out a group of First Nations youths from its chambers after they’d travelled to Queen’s Park from Grassy Narrows demanding the province clean up the mercury-contaminated waters that have devastated their community for more than four decades.
“Premier, will you look at these youths from Grassy Narrows who are sitting behind you and tell them that the rivers that make them sick today won’t be cleaned tomorrow and will never be cleaned in their lifetime?” NDP member Sarah Campbell asked of Premier Kathleen Wynne during question period yesterday morning, June 2nd.
The Grassy Narrows youths wore blue t-shirts that bore the message Water is Sacred as they observed from the NDP’s public gallery. Campbell continued to question the Premier as the youths stood up and waved their shirts upon which they were removed from the chamber.
Darwin Fobister, 19, of Grassy Narrows stood beneath the shade outside the main doors of provincial parliament among other boys following their dismissal from the legislature.
“They were saying some things that we thought were disrespectful. Like they were saying something about why bother with the mercury and stuff like that,” said Fobister.
He said mercury poisoning is not a fun disease. The 19-year-old said he experiences an overall weakness and shakiness in his body among other symptoms as a result of exposure to the chemical.
Even a simple game of tug of war becomes impossible because his grip is fragile, and he said it bothers him when his friends tell him they are stronger than him. He added that people in parliament must do something to clear up the contamination, to stop logging practices.
“It’s not only reserves that get the impact. They are risking their own generations, so they will get affected themselves. They will affect their own kids.”
According to the results of the most recent scientific study conducted in Grassy Narrows, something can be done to make the water and the fish safe again.
Earlier that morning Campbell told the legislature that the findings of this study were not new knowledge to the government, and she continued to press Wynne for answers as to when the province would take action.
“This is not new science. In fact, it has been done in a number of communities across the province for decades. So let’s be clear: Enhanced natural remediation is possible,” said Campbell.
Wynne told the legislature that the study was not conclusive. She said it was unclear whether it was possible to clear up the contamination without disturbing the sediment.
“I just want to say to all of the young people and the people who have travelled from Grassy Narrows that this is something that is of great concern to me and to all of our caucus,” said Wynne.
When Chief Simon Fobister addressed the crowd of supporters gathered in Queen’s Park later that morning, he said the government had all the scientific proof necessary to fix the situation in his community but they lacked political will.
CUPE Secretary Treasurer Dawn Bellerose also spoke to the crowd as they prepared to march through the city, stating that the province had no excuse to avoid taking measures to help Grassy Narrows following the results of this scientific research.
“It’s time to bring an end to this government’s sanctioned abuses of First Nation’s people. It’s time for Premier Wynne to deliver more than pretty words,” said Bellerose.
Leaha Fontaine, 29, was among the many who travelled from Grassy Narrows to Queen’s Park for River Run 2016.
She sat on a rock outside parliament where she watched hundreds of supporters carry hand-made posters as they gathered before the make-shift stage.
“It’s a really good experience. Like I am so appreciative of all the support that we have right now as you can see,” said Fontaine.
She said she was beginning to feel the effects of the mercury contamination on her health. She said it would make her feel good to know that when she leaves the earth, the generations to come will have proper drinking water.
Yet the water crisis was only one of the reasons that brought Fontaine to Queen’s Park.
“Another big thing that I most care about is the trees, the clear-cutting because they give us oxygen. We need the trees to breath and its so sickening that they are doing major clear-cutting on our land. That’s what we’re fighting for too.”