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Ontario admits ‘We have a problem’ at Grassy Narrows

The Story

What a difference a year makes. When CBC Radio's As It Happens broadcast its investigative documentary "A Clear and Present Danger" about mercury contamination, Ontario officials insisted there was no reason for alarm. Now, in this update interview with As It Happens host Barbara Frum, Ontario Health Minister Frank Miller has a very different message. Twenty-one Native residents are showing symptoms of mercury poisoning. "I've been alarmed for quite some time," Miller says. 

Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: Sept. 29, 1975
Guest: Frank Miller
Host: Alan Maitland
Interviewer: Barbara Frum
Duration: 9:09

Did You know?

• After this interview, Ontario sent a fact-finding team to Japan for 12 days. Dr. James Stopps, an Ontario health official, headed the group. On the visit, he told reporters that hair and blood samples showing elevated mercury levels in Ontario samples weren't enough to trigger compensation. "You just can't look at a patient and say he has the disease. We can't give out medical compensation just because of high levels of mercury. He has to have symptoms too."

• In the early to mid-1970s, the Ontario government made some efforts to provide an alternate food source. Native residents were given equipment to fish in nearby unpolluted lakes and rivers. Some who followed the advice, however, were treated as interlopers by lodge owners and fishermen afraid they would deplete the stock. Frozen fish were also flown to the reserves from Winnipeg. Some people complained, however, that they tasted mushy and bland.


Mercury Rising: The Poisoning of Grassy Narrows more