Canada and Wabaseemoong Independent Nations sign a Relationship Agreement: Comprehensive Response to Mercury and Human Health in Wabaseemoong Independent Nations
September 18, 2020 — Wabaseemoong Independent Nations, Traditional Ojibway, Treaty #3 Territory, Ontario — Indigenous Services Canada
Today, the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services, and Wabaseemoong Independent Nations' (WIN) Chief Waylon Scott signed a Relationship Agreement: Comprehensive Response to Mercury and Human Health in Wabaseemoong Independent Nations.
Strong relationships with First Nations are crucial in addressing the long-standing health issues that have impacted the well-being of their people. Canada is committed to supporting First Nations as they lead the development of unique solutions to close existing gaps in healthcare and meet the health needs of their members.
"This Agreement will build a strong foundation and foster innovative ways to improve the health and well-being of community members, especially for those suffering from the effects of mercury exposure. I'd like to acknowledge and commend the work of Chief Scott and Council in bringing this Agreement to fruition and developing a First Nation-led solution that will make a real difference in the lives of community members.
The Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Indigenous Services
"We at Wabaseemoong Independent Nations are excited to be participating in this signing agreement today. The health and well-being of our community has always been and will continue to be a top priority for us. In order to make progress forward in addressing these health concerns we have to have a strong relationship built on trust and mutual respect, and we are happy with the steps the federal government is taking today. We will continue to advocate for the wellbeing of our community members, and are pleased to finally see this much needed Wellness Centre developed here that is inclusive for all our members."
Chief Waylon Scott
Wabaseemoong Independent Nations
Mercury contamination in the English-Wabigoon River system, discovered in 1970, caused exposure among people residing in WIN. Many community members were exposed to methylmercury in the late 1960s and 1970s resulting in the negotiation and signing of a Memorandum of Agreement in November 1985. This agreement was supported by passage of the federal Grassy Narrows and Islington Indian Bands Mercury Pollution Claims Settlement Act, in 1986, and the Ontario English and Wabigoon River Systems Mercury Contamination Settlement Agreement Act, 1986. These Acts provided for the establishment of a Mercury Disability Fund and a Mercury Disability Board to oversee the administration of the trust fund for benefits paid to claimants showing symptoms of past mercury exposure.
Federal and Ontario provincial governments, together with two pulp and paper mill companies (Reed Limited and Great Lakes Forest Products Ltd), paid a total of $16.67 million in a one-time compensation payment to WIN and Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek.
WIN is currently conducting a Community Health Assessment, expected to be completed in 2022, that will identify the health needs of community members, including infrastructure, in the form of a Mercury Wellness Centre, programs and services. This assessment will guide the development of a distinctions-based comprehensive health service delivery plan.
For more information, media may contact:
Office of the Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Indigenous Services
Kenora Chiefs Advisory (for Wabaseemoong Independent Nations)
Indigenous Services Canada
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