Elliot Lake – The government must be more concerned with the people of Grassy Narrows First Nation than they are with covering their own tracks, says New Democrat Aboriginal Health Critic, Carol Hughes.   The MP for Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing is speaking in support of members of the First Nation who are in Toronto this week to expose systemic neglect for mercury poisoning survivors from that community and calling for long-awaited justice for survivors, the community, and the river system poisoned by mercury.

“The Conservatives have moved from one story to the next in order to deflect responsibility but at the end of the day, it is the people of Grassy Narrows who are suffering,” said Hughes.   “Now we learn that the government had been holding back important information as well.”

Hughes is referring to reports that show the Mercury Disability Board was working with outdated information while rejecting 65% of applicants that had been found to show signs of Minamata disease (mercury poisoning) by noted Japanese specialist, Dr. Masazumi Harada. 

“What we are learning is that the Mercury Disability Board was in possession of better science than they were using to determine who is suffering from mercury poisoning,” said Hughes.  “At the same time the government has been whitewashing the severity of the situation and even suggesting the problems are related to diabetes and alcohol.”

Hughes believes the government must use the best available science to ensure that those affected are recognized and can receive appropriate treatment.  The MP is especially concerned with the outright fabrication that was reported to the House of Commons in 2010 by current Minister of Natural Resources, Greg Rickford, who suggested that there had been significant cleanup of the river and that the fish are fine to eat.

“This is a dangerous message,” said Hughes. “It ignores the reality of the situation - that there has been no clean up done and encourages people to eat polluted fish.”

Hughes is hopeful that the events in Toronto this week will help deliver the justice that is being sought for mercury survivors, the community, and the desire for an actual cleanup of the Wabigoon-English river system.  The community is holding a Press Conference today (Monday, July 28th) to spell out their demands which include proper recognition, compensation, restoration and justice.