Generations of Activism: The Grassy Narrows First Nation’s Fight for Clean Water

In the 1960s, a chemical company used large amounts of mercury in a process that bleached paper. After using mercury in this chemical process, the waste was dumped into the English River in Ontario, Canada, poisoning the water.

Since its discovery in the 1970s, community members have engaged in activism to ensure the cleanup of their water and health benefits for those who suffer from symptoms of mercury poisoning.

With pollution that occurred so long ago, mercury levels found in the water should be decreasing, but that is not the case. It is hypothesized that buried mercury seeps through groundwater and into the river system, continuing the pollution.

In recent years, the provincial government has pledged $85 million towards a clean-up of the river as well as the construction of a care center in the area, but there’s been little to no progress made on either of these promises.

Still, the community fights.

As a result of government inaction, a culture of activism has been passed from generation to generation in Grassy Narrows and the youth of the community are forced to fight for the same causes their grandparents fought for with the hopes that the Canadian government is finally ready to listen.