Hunger strike ends, Ont. government to address mercury contamination

Former Treaty 3 Grand Chief Steve Fobister Sr. speaks next to Aboriginal Affairs Minister David...

Former Treaty 3 Grand Chief Steve Fobister Sr. speaks next to Aboriginal Affairs Minister David Zimmer after demanding that changes be made to help those in Grassy Narrows affected by mercury poisoning.

Alan S. Hale, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:40 PM ET

KENORA, Ont. — A former grand chief officially ended his hunger strike Thursday after the provincial government agreed to work to provide better health-care treatment and reform the compensation process for people in Grassy Narrows First Nation suffering from mercury illnesses.

“This has put an awakening in the whole community,” Steve Fobister said. “We are coming together to continue our stand together. I have flushed the government fox out of his foxhole. But our work is not done.”

Representatives from Grassy Narrows First Nation spent much of the week in Toronto to raise awareness about the problem in their northwestern Ontario community.

Fobister’s hunger strike sought to pressure the province to reform the Mercury Disability Board, which was formed in 1985 to distribute compensation to contamination victims when the band and the province settled out of court over contamination claims linked to a paper mill. The band says the criteria for judging who should get compensation are out of date and leave some people suffering from mercury exposure with nothing.

Fobister and the First Nation also demanded the establishment of a treatment centre in Grassy Narrows for people with mercury-related diseases, as well as improved home-care services.

The provincial government agreed to work to satisfy both demands, but warned the only thing that could hold up the process is the federal government.

 


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