Ontario government to increase mercury disability payments to affected First Nations

A map showing Grassy Narrows. The Canadian Press

TORONTO – The Ontario government says it is moving to ensure people who receive mercury disability payments are properly compensated by retroactively indexing payments to the rate of inflation.

The government says more than 200 people in the First Nations communities of Grassy Narrows and Wabaseemoong receive the payments, which have been frozen since 1985.

Mercury contamination has plagued the English-Wabigoon River system since a paper mill in Dryden, Ont., dumped 9,000 kilograms of the toxic substance into the river systems in the 1960s.

READ MORE: Report finds Grassy Narrows residents’ health ‘significantly worse’ than other First Nations

The contamination closed a thriving commercial fishery and devastated Grassy Narrows’ economy.

The government said Friday it remains committed to cleaning up the mercury contamination in the English and Wabigoon Rivers.

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A health survey earlier this year found the health of people living in the northern Ontario communities was “significantly worse” than other First Nations.