O’Regan, Grassy Narrows chief negotiate medical facility agreement
First Nation community living with lasting impacts of mercury contamination from industrial waste dumped in the local river system.
OTTAWA — Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan and Grassy Narrows Chief Rudy Turtle are having a lengthy meeting in the First Nation about a proposed agreement and the fate of a long-promised specialized medical facility.
Members of Grassy Narrows First Nation, in northern Ontario, live with lasting impacts of mercury contamination – including impaired peripheral vision, hearing and speech – after industrial waste was dumped in the local river system.
Help for the community seemed to be on the way when the federal government promised a specialized treatment facility on the reserve in November 2017 and a feasibility study was produced last fall outlining costs and design ideas.
But Turtle has said there has been little action on the project since then and he fears the upcoming election campaign will further delay work on the much-needed facility.
The federal government issued a media advisory before O’Regan’s visit indicating he plans to sign a memorandum of agreement with the community – a document that is not legally binding – but the chief said May 28 the community and the government were still discussing its contents.
Ahead of the trip, the secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, the honorary chairperson of the Council of Canadians and the president of Ontario arm of the Canadian Union of Public Employees issued an open letter saying the onus is on the Trudeau government to demonstrate that O’Regan’s visit is about more than repairing the Liberal brand.