Grassy Narrows needs local Mercury Home and Treatment Centre

TORONTO – The Green Party of Ontario fully supports the call by the people of Grassy Narrows for construction of a local Mercury Home and Treatment Centre to help the survivors of decades of mercury poisoning in the First Nations community.

GPO Leader Mike Schreiner says Grassy Narrows residents should not have to travel to distant health facilities, where they report intense loneliness and alienation because they are separated from their families, their community and their culture.

“It is shameful that successive Ontario governments ignored the devastating impact of mercury poisoning on the people of Grassy Narrows. We owe them proper treatment close to home,” said Schreiner. “It is wrong to force people to travel hundreds of kilometres to receive the health care they deserve.”

Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister has said researchers have concluded that more than 90 per cent of the people in Grassy Narrows and the nearby Wabaseemoong (White Dog) First Nation have symptoms of mercury poisoning, including neurological problems and birth defects.

A 2016 report, recently published by The Toronto Star, found mercury contamination in the area has lingered for decades and likely still does, despite repeated assurances from public officials over the years that there was no ongoing source of mercury in local rivers.

As scientists sounded the alarm that the neurotoxin was poisoning the fish and the people who eat it, “government official after government official kept repeating that there was no ongoing source of mercury in the Wabigoon River that is the lifeblood of Grassy Narrows,” reported the Star.

“It was a betrayal for successive provincial governments to hide the fact they knew mercury was still present at a former paper mill in Dryden. We can not tolerate environmental racism in Ontario,” said Schreiner.

“No one wants to live in a province that allows people to be poisoned.”

The mercury contamination also destroyed the local economy by forcing the closure of the commercial fishing industry. The Liberals must take real action to clean up the mercury contamination.

“How can the Grassy Narrows First Nation thrive when the river they rely on for water, food and their economy continues to be poisoned by mercury?” asked Schreiner.

The Green Party will continue to support the Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong First Nations to make sure the government fulfills its duty to them.

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Nuclear needs an independent cost-benefit analysis

Today’s report from the Financial Accountability Officer (FAO) is an extremely limited, one-sided look at the Liberal’s nuclear program in Ontario.

“What Ontarians really need is a comprehensive analysis of the best options for our province,” says Jose Etcheverry, GPO critic for Environment and Climate Change. “In fact, all nuclear projects in Ontario’s history have been late and over budget; Pickering should have been closed in 2014 and it is irresponsible to keep it open any longer. Darlington is already 400% over budget on just one component, showing Ontario must take off ramps away from nuclear.”

The FAO report admits: “The present report is not a comprehensive cost-benefit or business case analysis of the Nuclear Refurbishment Plan relative to alternatives. Such an analysis would have to consider important issues such as economic, environmental, security factors and associated non-financial risks.”

Without an independent review of the costs and alternatives, we cannot know what the best option is for Ontario.

What we do know is that nuclear is risky and expensive. Once it’s built we are going to be pushed to use it, undermining conservation efforts. Nuclear inhibits our ability to use emerging technologies that may be cheaper and cleaner to run, that also don’t have as many safety concerns or problems with storing waste.

Ontario still has no plan for storing radioactive nuclear waste, instead punting yet another problem to the next generation.

Last, no company will insure nuclear plants because they are too risky. It’s simply not fair to put taxpayers on the hook for them.