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The Grassy Narrows people in Canada have a special relationship to the river. However, the Indigenous community has been devastated by mercury poisoning in the river system. Fish and tap water were contaminated with extremely high levels of mercury, causing cancer and severe health problems for decades. This video is an example of just one of the more than 100 Indigenous communities in Canada with limited access to safe water. Approximately 90 percent of Grassy Narrows residents suffer from mercury poisoning. From 1962 to 1970, a now-defunct Dryden paper mill poured 10 tonnes of mercury into the Wabigoon-English River system. Though the situation here has been long-known, the government's slow response to the issue highlights another case of environmental racism in Canada toward marginalized Indigenous peoples.
The issue of clean water on First Nations land and the Federal government's reaction to the perceived crisis is currently very much in the media. The video helps to raise student awareness of the topic and may serve as an introduction to the issue and encourage further study.
This video may be used as a case study in resource management or human-environmental interaction (Geography, Environmental Science); as a case study in social justice or social equity (Social Studies); as part of a study of First Nations issues and government response to those issues (Indigenous Studies, Social Studies). The video could begin a more extensive study focusing on clean water and other challenges faced by First Nations.
Following the viewing and discussion of the video, students may investigate the local situation concerning First Nations and water to determine whether this is an Ontario issue only. Local First Nation Elders and government representatives would be a useful resource in any such investigation.
The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.