Grassy Narrows First Nation comes to Toronto on a mission to protect the Water
Grassy Narrows First Nation (Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek) community members and Toronto-folk have always had a loving and supportive relationship between our two communities – despite the distance, hearts can still be heard calling out to one another.
I have learned that traditional songs and drumming is the tie that binds us together. Sometimes when I do get a change to leave the city, I listen to the sky and can hear them singing.
Right now, I would love for my fellow Big Drum or Hand Drum or Shaker sisters and brothers to bring their Sacred drums and shakers and come down on Thursday July 31 at 12:00 pm at Grange Park.
Because right now I'm beaming like the sun knowing they are coming down.
For this year's Grassy Narrows River Run, thirty Grassy Narrows First Nations members will travel 1,800 km to Toronto to demand justice for mercury poisoning survivors, clean water, and respect for indigenous rights. Grassy Narrows people are still suffering from the debilitating neurological impacts of 10 tons of mercury dumped into their river by a paper mill upstream between 1962-1970. No clean-up has been done.
Grassy Narrows has had the longest running blockade– over ten years – in Canada.
Looking to Grassy Narrows' past illustrates the basis of their struggle not only with logging rights but regarding the protection of Mother Earth and her water from the related pulp and paper industry – which used to be the economic engine for smaller Northern Ontario communities and national hub Thunder Bay.
Mercury in the water. Mercury in the blood. For as a First Nation community well connected to the land and water, the people suffer the same effects as the traditional territories they are born from. This is no coincidence, and much more real than supernatural.
Both humans and their environment – every river, fish, plant and person suffer the same fate. As Mother Earth's rivers our akin to the blood in our veins, the reverse is also true as our veins are akin to the rivers and streams of Mother Earth. We are all connected.
Grassy Narrows is still fighting for justice regarding getting the government to recognize their suffering as the pulp and paper mill's damage to the water runs in tandem to the damage the logging industry has done to the land.
River Run rallies are held each summer in Ontario. In 2012, Grassy Narrows community members, "travelled 2,000 km to Toronto by foot, train, and bus, and joined hundreds of supporters in deploying 15,000 square feet of blue fabric to create a wild river that flowed to Queen's Park to demand long overdue justice for their people and protection for the waters and forests on which they depend."
Members of the Grassy Narrows band took their protecting-of-their-land-rights right up the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC). [Thanks to the research work of Free Grassy.] There, Grassy Narrows argued that Ontario has no jurisdiction over logging on their Territory due to promises made by Canada in Treaty 3 and the constitution.
"This case began as an application for judicial review challenging a forestry licence Ontario issued to a pulp and paper manufacturer, which authorized clear-cut forestry operations within the Keewatin area. The contested issue was whether the licence infringed Wabauskang and Grassy Narrows' harvesting rights under Treaty 3, and whether Ontario could issue licences under the "take up clause" in the Treaty, which allowed lands to be used for settlement, mining or lumbering by the government. This application was quashed in 2003 because the issue could only be resolved at a full trial," explains Christina Gray.
The SCC ruled that Ontario is allowed to exercise the rights and responsibilities that Canada has under the Treaty. This decision was limited to differentiating between the jurisdiction of Canada vs. Ontario. The SCC did not rule on whether clear-cut logging violates Treaty rights, or on whether the government has met its responsibilities under the Treaty.
Bruce McIvor, a lawyer who argued on behalf of Wabauskang First Nation, another Treaty 3 First Nation with a link to Grassy, said on First People's Law website that, "While technically a 'loss' for Grassy Narrows and Wabauskang, the decision will most likely prove a powerful tool for ensuring that Ontario, and other provinces, respect treaty rights."
According to McIvor, "The Court was unequivocal that while Ontario can exercise its interest in Crown lands, its authority is subject to Treaty and is burdened by the Crown's constitutional obligations, including fiduciary obligations."
So Regardless of what old or future corporation or government plans have for the territory, fortunately, this ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada does not make it a free-for-all for any logging company of other resource extraction industry without proper consultation and free, informed, prior consent.
Regardless of any premature outcomes, the blockade and watchful band members and their allies will still be Ogichidaa-force to be reckoned with.
Hence this year's River Run is even more important, to show Queen's Park, all the monied kind at Bay and King, that as long as the rivers run, this fight isn't over.
So...there are a few different things happening to support our Sisters and Brothers from Grassy.
1: PRESS CONFERENCE
WHAT: Grassy Narrows exposes government neglect on mercury tragedy
WHEN: Monday July 28, 10:00 a.m.
WHO: -Grassy Narrows Chief Roger Fobister
-Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy
-Grassy Narrows Mother of Five Judy Da Silva
-Stephen Lewis available for comment by phone
WHERE: Steelworkers Hall, 25 Cecil St. (near Spadina and College)
STEPHEN LEWIS AND LEANNE SIMPSON SPEAK WITH GRASSY NARROWS
WHAT: Grassy Narrows and prominent supporters speak out
WHEN: Tuesday July 29, 6:30 p.m.
WHO: -Stephen Lewis – former Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations
-Leanne Betasamosake Simpson - Writer, educator and activist
-Grassy Narrows Chief Roger Fobister
-Judy Da Silva – Grassy Narrows mother of five.
3: Grassy Narrows River Run
*Krystalline Kraus will be out covering the event for rabble.ca by live-tweeting @krystalline_k Other hashtags will be #freeGrassy and #RiverRun *
WHAT: Grassy Narrows and hundreds of their supporters will flow as a wild river through the streets of Toronto bringing their demands to Queens Park. The crowd will carry hundreds of yards of blue fabric flowing in the wind, dozens of fish cut-outs, and large banners.
WHEN: Thursday July 31, Noon.
WHO: The march will be led by Grassy Narrows Elders in wheel chairs accompanied by the beat of the Grassy Narrows Womens Drum Group. Speakers will include Chief Roger Fobister and prominent activist Judy Rebick.
WHERE: Assemble at Grange Park (behind the AGO) at Noon. Speeches at Queens Park begin at 1:15 p.m.
More information: http://freegrassy.net/2014/05/25/river-run-2014-water-is-sacred/
Thank you for reading this story…
More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.
rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.
So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.
And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.