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Ontario pledges to better help First Nations residents suffering from mercury poisoning

A clear cut section of forest is seen on Grassy Narrows first nation territory near Dryden, Ont., in this 2006 handout image. Two first nations communities devastated by mercury poisoning nearly 50 years ago are still feeling the impacts from the metal toxins in one of their key water supplies, a world-renowned expert suggested.


Ontario's aboriginal affairs minister says he'll push for a review of a board that oversees compensation for First Nations residents suffering health issues from mercury poisoning.

David Zimmer says he'll work with the federal government and Wabaseemoong First Nation to get their approval to conduct a review to determine how best to help those with mercury-related health issues.

He says the proposed review of the Mercury Disability Board would look at the level of the current benefits provided by the board, which includes both the federal and provincial government.

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Zimmer says the province would also look at options for more on-site treatment for Grassy Narrows First Nation residents.

Grassy Narrows Elder Steve Fobister says Zimmer's comments provide "some level of comfort," but more work needs to be done.

Water around Grassy Narrows has been contaminated with mercury since a local paper mill dumped an estimated 10 tonnes of neurotoxins into the system between 1962 and 1970.

The Grassy Narrows First Nation said Monday it had obtained an unreleased report that said the board's criteria to determine whether someone had symptoms consistent with mercury poisoning were based on science from the 1980s.

The report, which was commissioned by the board in 2009, also said there was "no doubt" people in the community near Kenora, Ont., suffered from mercury-related neurological disorders

The board was formed as part of an out-of-court settlement reached in the 1980s between Grassy Narrows and the Wabaseemoong Independent Nations and Ottawa, the province and two paper companies over mercury-related claims.

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