OTTAWA — Former federal Liberal leader Bob Rae says he was unaware during his tenure as Ontario premier that there was likely ongoing mercury contamination taking place upstream from Grassy Narrows First Nation.
A recently disclosed 2016 report says the contamination lingered for decades after mercury from an upstream paper mill was first dumped in the Wabigoon River in the 1960s.
Rae, whose term as premier began in 1990, says he had no idea that was the case, adding that the report makes it clear that vital information was not forthcoming to the government.
The comments, made on the sidelines of an Indigenous Peoples summit in Ottawa, come ahead of a meeting on Wednesday between Ontario Indigenous Relations Minister David Zimmer, federal Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott and Grassy Narrows leadership.
Chief Simon Fobister has cheered Ontario’s commitment to spend $85 million cleaning up the mess, and he now wants the federal government to pay for a new facility in the community so locals can receive treatment closer to home.
Organizations including Human Rights Watch agree the current extent of federal help for Grassy Narrows is inadequate, given the chronic nature of the problem.
Rae also says it is clear Ottawa has constitutional obligations to the community.
The Canadian Press