Supreme Court to rule today on cleanup of contaminated Grassy Narrows site


OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada is expected to bring clarity today to the question of who should pay for cleaning up a mercury-contaminated site near Ontario’s Grassy Narrows First Nation.

Eight years ago, the Ontario government ordered Weyerhaeuser Co. and Resolute Forest Products to do remedial work on the former pulp-and-paper mill site in Dryden, Ont., where about 9,000 kilograms of toxic effluent was dumped in the English-Wabigoon River system in the 1960s.

The two companies claim that an indemnity granted in 1985 to the company that owned the facility at the time applies to them as well, something the province disputes.

An Ontario judge ruled in favour of the companies in 2016, saying the language of the indemnity should cover the two subsequent owners as well, but the decision was largely overturned on appeal.

The mercury contamination has caused health problems for some members of the First Nation.

Ontario’s former Liberal government committed $85 million to clean up the river system, while the federal government has promised to fund a treatment centre for those affected by mercury poisoning.