Grassy Narrows wins cleanup promise after 40 years!

Premier Wynne promises to clean up mercury in new effort led by Grassy Narrows First Nation
by February 13, 2017

Chief Simon Fobister received momentous news when he met Premier Kathleen Wynne on Friday.

Premier Wynne promised to him that Ontario would clean up the English-Wabigoon River system and the Dryden Mill and that this cleanup would be led by Grassy Narrows First Nation!

Water has worn away the stone. After years of foot dragging, misleading, and back pedalling, Ontario has committed to do the right thing. This commitment is a direct result of sustained grassroots Indigenous resistance and ally support.

This is a moment for cautious celebration, but the work is not done. No schedule has been announced, and the remediation has not begun. Promises made before have been broken.

The clean up of the river, led by Grassy Narrows First Nation directly, is the first step. Grassy Narrows continues to call for a dignified Mercury Home for survivors in their community, a fair mercury compensation system, top quality health care, and a permanent Grassy Narrows environmental health monitoring station. Grassy Narrows is also calling for an end to planned clearcut logging on their homeland which would release more mercury into their lakes and rivers.

For over forty years (read brief history below), the people of Grassy Narrows have organized and fought for this commitment, and in the process they have become one of the lighting rods of Indigenous self-determination in Canada.  Grassy’s win today shows us yet again that justice on these territories will come through the leadership of grassroots Indigenous communities.

Chief Fobister has a message for us. “I thank the grassroots people of Grassy Narrows, and our supporters who have been tireless in their work to gain justice for mercury survivors at long last

Let us continue until Grassy Narrows and all Indigenous communities win justice.


In solidarity,

A brief history of the struggle at Grassy Narrows

  • 1962 – Dryden Chemical begins dumping 9,000 kg of mercury poison into Grassy Narrows’ river
  • 1970 – Commercial fishing banned, dumping controlled.
  • 1975 – Grassy Narrows protests in Dryden
  • 1985 – Grassy Narrows gains basic mercury compensation
  • 2002 – Dr. Hanada returns to Grassy Narrows to document ongoing health impacts
  • 2010 – First of four River Run weeks of action led by Grassy Narrows in Toronto
  • 2012 – Wynne commits to rebuild relationship with Grassy Narrows at fish fry on Queens Park front lawn
  • 2014 – Hunger strike by Steve Fobister Sr. forces Minister Zimmer to commit to review inadequate mercury compensation and look into a Mercury Home for survivors in Grassy Narrows
  • 2016 – Over 1,000 people march with Grassy Narrows in Toronto.  Former worker reports burying mercury in a shallow pit behind the mill, contaminated soil found.
  • 2017 – Wynne promises to clean the river under Grassy Narrows’ leadership.