A First Nation elder from northwestern Ontario is on his fourth day of a hunger strike to protest historical mercury contamination he says led to a regional health crisis.
Steve Fobister Sr. pleaded to officials at Queen’s Park on July 29, 2014 in an effort to get health care and financial compensation for mercury survivors in his home of Grassy Narrows, just north of Kenora, Ontario.
Throughout the 1960s, an area paper mill dumped tonnes of toxic waste into the nearby Wabigoon-English River system. Fobister and other locals say there were poisoned by eating fish contaminated by mercury.
“There are people that are in need right now — it’s not something that we are going to talk about forever,” Fobister told reporters.
A 2010 report commissioned by the Mercury Disability Board addressed the health crisis in Grassy Narrows, but resulted in little to no action on the issue. The Board had actually formed after Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong Independent Nations reached an out-of-court settlement with Ottawa, Queen’s Park and two paper companies over the historical contamination claims.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Zimmer says he’s set to travel to Grassy Narrows on Aug. 6 to get a better sense of the help that may be required for mercury survivors living in the First Nations community.