“Steve always wanted the government to admit that he had been poisoned by mercury. Now we take up his fight to honour him.” – the family of Steve Fobister, Sr.
In October, Steve Fobister Sr., a leader and spokesperson for the Grassy Narrows First Nation in northwestern Ontario, died after a long struggle with mercury poisoning. He was only 66. His family and friends are clear that the struggle he helped lead is far from over.
For more than five decades, the people of Grassy Narrows have been forced to live with the devastating consequences of a government policy that allowed massive amounts of mercury to be dumped into their river system; as a result fish in the waters around the community have been found to have dangerously high levels of mercury. So, it’s no coincidence that Grassy Narrows, whose traditions and economy revolve around fishing, faces the worst community health crisis in Canada.
Methyl mercury is an extremely dangerous environmental contaminant. Exposure can cause debilitating loss of motor control among many other severe, chronic health problems. For children, exposure to mercury can impair mental and physical development.
A generation of leaders like Steve Fobister, who spoke out for the community when the mercury poisoning was first discovered, have had to deal with a lifetime of worsening health. At the same time, studies have shown that the symptoms of mercury poisoning are also widespread among young people in the community, even though they were born long after the government reassured the community that the mercury threat would have vanished.
Urge federal Minister of Indigenous Services Seamus O'Regan to finally acknowledge and address the crisis of methyl mercury poisoning at Grassy Narrows.