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In the 1960s, a chemical company dumped 10 tonnes of toxic waste in the river system upstream from the Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation community. This unfortunate event has led to the contamination of culturally important fish that the community relies on for food. The fish were contaminated with extremely high levels of mercury, causing decades of severe health problems and eroding their unique way of life. Despite repeated calls for action, subsequent governments have failed to take necessary steps to clean up the river, exposing community members to devastating health impacts for over half a century. These impacts include early death and other severe health issues.
However, the community's young people are raising awareness about this issue, making it impossible for the government to ignore the situation. Darwin and Afeni are from Grassy Narrows, Canada, a First Nations reserve devastated by mercury poisoning. Fifty years on, Darwin, Afeni, and many of the community's youth are fighting for justice.
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. Students could research the known effects of heavy metals on ecosystems and their effects in people.
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.
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