Ontario won't say if Glen Murray's promise to clean up mercury at Grassy Narrows will happen
Clean up could make contamination worse, Premier Kathleen Wynne says
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne needs to back up a promise made Wednesday by one of her cabinet ministers, in writing, the chief of Grassy Narrows First Nation says.
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Glen Murray said in question period that the province would clean up mercury contamination in waterways near Grassy Narrows.
"I invite the Premier to put this historic commitment in writing and sign it alongside me in proper ceremony so that we can know it is real," Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Fobister said in a news release issued by the First Nation on Thursday.
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Murray made the commitment in response to a question from NDP MP France Gelinas, and referring to the cleanup of contamination from a rail derailment near Gogama, in northern Ontario.
"I will promise that we will do the same thing there and get the cleanup to the satisfaction of the chief and the health of the people of Grassy Narrows," Murray said.
CBC News asked the Minister's office to clarify what Murray's promise means.
In response, a spokesperson sent a transcript of Premier Kathleen Wynne's statement from question period on Thursday.
"As I have said many many times, we are not going to act in contradiction of science that would say that if we take certain actions we will make the situation worse," Wynne said.
The Premier has expressed concerns in the past that any attempt to clean up the river could disturb the mercury and spread the contamination.
A government-funded report released in May and written by three experts in mercury contamination said it is feasible to clean up the river that was polluted by a pulp and paper mill upstream in Dryden the 1960s and 70s.
In June, Ontario committed to spending $300,000 to test mercury levels in fish and in the sediment in the river system.
Meanwhile, new research by Japanese scientists shows that up to 90 per cent of the population at Grassy Narrows demonstrates signs of mercury poisoning.
"We have borne 54 years of poison and inaction," Fobister said. "We need a firm timeline and a realistic budget to get this cleanup done as soon as humanly possible. We will not rest until our fish are safe to eat again."