Aboriginal Justice: Legacy of Poison

CHILDREN SUFFER EFFECTS OF MERCURY POISONING

by Judy Da Silva

Grassy Narrows Clan Mother, and long-time partner of CPT’s Aboriginal Justice Team (AJT), Judy Da Silva wrote the following reflection to commemorate Universal Children’s Day 2014, established by the United Nations in 1954 and celebrated on 20 November each year.

Judy Da Silva, Slant Lake Blockade, Asubpeeschoseewagong (Grassy Narrows) October 2011In Grassy Narrows, children and youth outnumber the adults in our total on-reserve population of 800 people.

These children and youth are true survivors. They inherit the legacy of a land devoured by consumerism, namely from the logging industry. This industry dumped 9,000 kg of mercury into the English / Wabigoon river system, effectively poisoning water that is supposed to be life-giving. Not all of the children and youth in Grassy Narrows are disabled, but with each year, more children are born with health problems.

The very sad part about all this is that, even with our continuous, untiring efforts to get justice, nothing will solve their loss of health and good life. We stand before the big mouth of consumerism and there is no humanity or compassion for these children and youth.

After so many protests, boycotts, rallies, awareness pickets, and information tours since 1975, our children and youth still live with the legacy of poison. The river still flows with its mercury-laden sediment. We still watch our children inherit illnesses that hospitals cannot effectively treat. We know this is because of mercury poisoning.

For example, we have a five-year-old child that cannot talk. The many medical doctors that have assessed her cannot figure out how she can be so smart and yet not form words. She is not the only one with this mysterious ailment. Speech therapy does not help these children.

On this National Day of the Child, we look to Article 24* of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child as we seek justice for our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. The river needs to be cleaned up to stop this unlawful, relentless poisoning of innocent Anishinaabe children at Grassy Narrows.

CPT-AJT has partnered with the people of Grassy Narrows since 1999 as they have stood up against clear-cut logging of the forest on their traditional territory and repeatedly called on the government to take responsibility for the mercury poisoning of their water. To learn about these struggles firsthand, join an AJT delegation to Grassy Narrows and Kenora, Ontario. See back page for 2015 delegation dates.

*Article 24 recognizes “the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health...”