Mercury Disability Board payment for Grassy Narrows to be indexed to inflation
The Minister of Indigenous Affairs made the announcement on Friday
Residents in Asubpeeschoseewagong Anishinabek, commonly known as Grassy Narrows First Nation, will soon receive retroactive compensation through the Mercury Disability Board (MDB) as payments are expected to be indexed to inflation starting next month.
Leaders in Grassy Narrows released a written statement on Friday saying that the province is committed to increasing payouts from the disability board, with the Minister of Indigenous Affairs, Greg Rickford, visiting the community on Friday to make that announcement.
"This is a step forward in righting one of the many wrongs that have been done to us," Chief Rudy Turtle of Grassy Narrows stated in Friday's release.
The board, which was established in 1985, was put in place to provide financial compensation to First Nations people whose health is affected by the mercury poisoning after an nearby pulp and paper mill in Dryden contaminated the community's river system in the 1960s and 70s.
According to Friday's statement, the disability board has been widely criticized for failing to adequately compensate individuals for the devastating health effects of mercury. In fact, the payments ranging between $250 to $800 were not indexed to inflation and therefore have been frozen at 1985 levels for the past three decades.
"Our people still suffer every day and most have never received any compensation for the poisoning of our families and our community. I call on Ontario to compensate all our people fairly and to help us rebuild the health, livelihood and independence that we once enjoyed," Chief Rudy Turtle said.
Currently, only 5.9 per cent of Grassy Narrows people receive compensation and nearly 70 per cent of applications to the disability board have been rejected due to "discriminatory barriers to accessing the benefits, a lack of support for applicants trying to navigate the system and a lack of support for Grassy Narrows representation on the disability board," says Grassy Narrows leaders.
The people of Grassy Narrows have been seeking justice since they were first informed about the contamination and have walked and bused to Toronto in 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016 to call for mercury justice.