|CPT delegates at Grassy Narrows|
(* = names below have been changed to protect the innocent.)
Grassy Narrows First Nation, Ontario: As a child, Fred* followed the trap line with his family in the winter. Then the Royal Canadian Mounted Police took him away from his family and placed him in a residential school where staff beat him if he spoke his language.
Over 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were placed in church-run residential schools. The first were established in the 1840s and the last one closed just 15 years ago in 1996. Recorded mortality rates at these schools reached as high as 69% through a combination of poor nutrition, brutal discipline, disease, abuse and neglect.
|Dryden pulp mill used mercury|
Today Fred shows prominent signs of Minamata disease caused by severe mercury poisoning. His symptoms include slurred speech, shaky hands and an unsteady walk. Many others in the community show symptoms as well, but only 38% receive any compensation.
Jay* was walking home from school on the reserve one day when a driver pulled up and offered him a ride home. But the car didn’t take him home. It took him to a foster home. It wasn’t until his mid-twenties that Jay finally got back home to Grassy Narrows.
Appalling as they are, these stories are neither isolated nor even unusual. They point to the ongoing strategy of targeting children in a systemic process of destroying indigenous language, culture and identity. As the residential school system began to decline, child welfare agencies increasingly relied on foster care as a means to this end. In 1959, 1% of indigenous children were removed from their parents. By the late 1960s, the rate was 30-40%. Today, indigenous children are three times more likely to be placed in state care than non-indigenous children.
|recent clearcut, from Amnesty report|
Understanding the many layers of oppression that colonialism inflicts on communities like Grassy Narrows is a necessary part of standing in solidarity with them. Learning this history is a first step in working to undo these oppressions.
Notes J. Rebick, "40 years later people at Grassy Narrows are still suffering mercury poisoning" Canadian Dimension blog 5 Jul 2010.
 E. Alston-O’Connor, "The Sixties Scoop", quoting Fournier and Crey, (1997) p. 83.
 "The Sixties Scoop: How Canada’s “Best Intentions” Proved Catastrophic", First Nations Drum (Mar 2009).
 Youtube video "The scars of mercury". See also en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ontario_Minamata_disease
 Abitibi and Weyerhauser corporations have been clear-cutting the region's forests. See reports in No One is Illegal, freegrassy.org/; Amnesty International's open letter to Ontario premier (2008) and its report (2009) with photos of native teens blockading logging roads and the Trans-Canada highway.
 See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Indian_residential_school_system and
***(For the full story, read Trip reports of Christian Peacemaker Teams Kenora / Asubpeeschoseewagong (2009-2010) on the CPT website. After the 2010 road blockade, the province finally admitted "numerous concerns" and started land-use negotiations. The governments' game is endless delay. The province's negotiations drag on, while the government jails protesters and native elders. Ottawa for years delayed ratification of UNDRIP for "free, prior, and informed consent" with natives before issuing permits for mining etc, and has yet to take concrete action. Despite lip service, colonialist policies continue, with callous disregard for native rights. - Ed.)