Steve Fobister Sr., an elder at Grassy Narrows First Nation suffering from mercury poisoning, ended his hunger strike on Wednesday morning.
Fobister announced the hunger strike at a news conference on Monday, in Toronto, stating that he hoped his protest would help to draw attention to the issue of mercury contamination in his community. The news conference called on the Ontario and Canadian governments to acknowledge that Grassy Narrows residents continue to suffer from mercury poisoning four decades after a Dryden paper mill dumped the toxin into the Wabigoon-English River system.
On Tuesday, Ontario Minister of Aboriginal Affairs David Zimmer issued a statement expressing concern about Fobister’s health and promising to “champion a review of the Mercury Disability Board, to determine how best to help those with mercury-related health issues.” Grassy Narrows has said many mercury poisoning victims have been denied compensation, partly because the board is using 30-year-old science to determine who is affected and eligible for a claim.
Zimmer also said he “agreed the government would explore the options for more on-site treatment for Grassy Narrows First Nation residents” and that he would visit the community on August 6.
In a statement posted Wednesday on freegrassy.net, a Grassy Narrows’ advocacy website, Fobister said he ended his hunger strike so he could “live and continue to fight for Grassy Narrows, for all aboriginal people, and for environmental justice.”
“I have flushed the government fox out of his fox hole,” Fobister said in the statement. “But our work is not done.”
“I want people fasting with me to stop now. They are young and they need their energy.”
On Wednesday morning during a visit to Thunder Bay, Premier Kathleen Wynne told reporters she was committed to dealing with the Grassy Narrows mercury issue.
“There is no doubt in my mind that there are disabilities that have come about because of the pollution of the water,” Wynne said.