October 18, 2018 6:22 pm

Supreme Court to hear case on clean up of mercury near Grassy Narrows

The Supreme Court of Canada is seen in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018. The Supreme Court of Canada says it will hear a legal dispute over whether the Ontario government can force Weyerhaeuser Co. and Resolute Forest Products to clean up mercury contamination near the Grassy Narrows First Nation.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
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OTTAWA — The Supreme Court of Canada says it will hear a legal dispute over whether the Ontario government can force Weyerhaeuser Co. and Resolute Forest Products to clean up a contaminated site upstream of the Grassy Narrows First Nation.

The two sides have been at odds since the province ordered the companies in 2011 to remediate the former mill site in Dryden, Ont., where some 9,000 kilograms of toxic effluent was dumped in the English-Wabigoon River system in the 1960s.

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The two companies claim that indemnity granted some 30 years ago to the company that owned the site at the time applies to them as well, something the province disputes.

An Ontario Superior Court judge ruled in favour of the companies in 2016, stating that the language of the indemnity should cover the two subsequent owners as well. The Ontario Court of Appeal overturned the ruling, stating that context was essential to a final determination.

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

The mercury contamination has led to long-term health impacts for the First Nation that continue today.

Last year, Ontario’s former Liberal government committed $85 million to remediate the river system, while the federal government has committed to funding a treatment centre for those affected by mercury poisoning.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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