Charges withdrawn against Grassy Narrows supporters who dumped cornstarch at Queen’s Park
CBC News, December 20, 2016
Charges were withdrawn earlier this month against six people who launched a dramatic demonstration in support of Grassy Narrows First Nation at Queen’s Park in June.
The group wore protective suits and dumped a barrel of grey sludge, labelled mercury kills, in front of the Ontario legislature. The substance turned out to be cornstarch.
Each of the demonstrators was charged with mischief over $5,000 and wearing a disguise with the intent to commit an indictable offence. Each of the charges carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The charges were dropped on December 7.
“We took a small risk, but we really think it doesn’t compare to the health risks that people in Grassy Narrows face everyday because of the mercury contamination,” said Shelagh Pizey-Allen, one of the demonstrators.
“The real crime is that the province has never been held accountable for cleaning up the mercury affecting Grassy Narrows,” she said.
The waterways where people from Grassy Narrows First Nation catch fish to eat were contaminated with mercury in the 1960s and 70s by a chemical plant at a paper mill upstream in Dryden, Ont. In a report released in May, environmental scientists determined that there is an unknown source of continuing contamination.
“Within 10 minutes of spilling cornstarch a hazmat team showed up to cordon it off and clean it up,” Pizey-Allen said. “In contrast, the river in Grassy Narrows has been contaminated for more than 50 years and there’s been no movement to clean it up.”
Last month, Ontario’s Environment Minister promised to clean up the mercury, but Premier Kathleen Wynne would not reiterate that commitment.