Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Family Calls for Inquest into Death of Former Grassy Narrows First Nation Chief

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Family Calls for Inquest into Death of Former Grassy Narrows First Nation Chief

Article excerpt

Family wants inquest into death of Grassy Narrows chief

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TORONTO - The family of an Ontario First Nation chief who was a vocal advocate for a community plagued by a mercury-contaminated river called Friday for an inquest into his death, saying it was needed to shed light on the illness he grappled with for years.

Those close to Steve Fobister Sr., the former chief of the Grassy Narrows First Nation, said the probe could prove what they believe is true -- that the community leader's death at 66 earlier this month was the result of long-term mercury poisoning.

"The family is looking for the truth and we don't see any other avenue to find out the truth," said Robert Williamson, a friend of Fobister. "An inquest would be something that finds out what's really happening."

Fobister's family also called on the prime minister and Ontario's health minister to acknowledge that the former chief was poisoned by mercury.

"Our beloved Steve died without ever getting the closure of having a government minister look into his eye and admit that he was poisoned by mercury," said Fobister's niece, Sylvia Wapioke. "Instead, he was forced to fight for four decades for mercury justice in the face of denial, delay and discrimination."

Mercury contamination has plagued the English-Wabigoon River system near Grassy Narrows ever since a paper mill in Dryden, Ont., dumped 9,000 kilograms of the substance into the river systems in the 1960s. The contamination closed a thriving commercial fishery and devastated Grassy Narrows' economy.

Fobister's family said he suffered from a degenerative neurological disorder that was the result of mercury poisoning. Consequently, Fobister had trouble walking and chewing, they said.

An inquest into his death, they said, would help others in his community who are also dealing with similar ailments. …

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