JUSTICE FOR GRASSY NARROWS

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In the 1960’s the Dryden pulp and paper mill dumped 10 tons of mercury into the Wabigoon River system upstream from Grassy Narrows.  This contaminated the walleye fish which the people ate, resulting in slurred speech, tremors, impaired hearing, tunnel vision and lost muscle coordination all signs of Minamata disease.  It destroyed their fishing tourism industry.

compensateIn the 1980s the government set up a Mercury Disability Board to compensate those affected but it proved ineffective with 70% turned down for compensation.  Officials for years said the mercury would fade away.  This has been proven to be false.  Scientists strongly suspect that old mercury still contaminates the mill site and continues to pollute the river.  The adults continue to exhibit record high levels of mercury in hair, blood and umbilical cord blood.

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The most recent study clearly indicates the on-going impacts of mercury poisoning and I quote from the article in the Star newspaper of Dec.5, “Children age 4 to 11 have a higher reported rate of ear infections, speech problems, and learning disabilities compared to that of other First Nations children.” “Grassy teens are struggling in school, with shorter attention spans than other First Nations teens the research found.”

Last year the provincial government did commit to $85 million clean up of the river and the federal government has pledged to help build a mercury care home that will help but neither project has yet begun.

Will the people of Grassy Narrows receive Justice after all these years?

The day after the release of this report a rally was held in Ottawa at the foot of Parliament Hill.  Indigenous peoples from across Canada were present to support the efforts of Grassy Narrows along with settlers.  

Canada has signed two relative United Nations documents:

1.”The United Nations  Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

2. “Minamata Convention on Mercury” which is a United Nations Environmental Document.

Both of these documents are legally binding.

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Judy da Silva a long-term activist for Grassy stated, “We are proud of our kids.”  “They amaze me every day with their humour, their pride, and their strength.”  They should not have to fight again and again for basic justice that others in Canada take for granted.”

-Sr. Rosemary Williamson, OLM

Moving Days

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November 12, 13 and 15, 2018  were moving days for Our Lady’s Missionaries. On each day the residents of a different one of our houses, with the help of a moving crew and generous family members and friends, moved to Presentation Manor.

Amid an assortment of furniture, boxes, and bags we began to acquaint ourselves with our new home, finding our way around the large building and meeting the staff and other residents.

The staff members have been very friendly and welcoming. The residents have been a mix of greeting old friends and making new ones. These relationships help to soften the sadness of leaving our former homes and neighbours.

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The Presentation Manor community is gradually growing each day with new arrivals, offering to each new resident a comfortable welcoming environment in which all can feel at home.

-Sr. Frances Brady, OLM

Please see link:

Seniors from religious communities among the first to move in to Presentation Manor

BY  

https://www.catholicregister.org/item/28486-seniors-from-religious-communities-among-the-first-to-move-in-to-presentation-manor

We’ve moved!

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On November 12, 13 and 15, Our Lady’s Missionaries moved to our new home, Presentation Manor.  Our new contact information is:

 

Telephone – 647-350-3755 Extension 128

Address –

128-61 Fairfax Crescent

Scarborough, ON

M1L 1Z7

 

Our email address remains the same:   ourladysmissionaries@gmail.com

 

Leave-Taking

On October 21 a bright sunny autumn day, Our Lady’s Missionaries gathered at 2 Leander Court, to bid goodbye to this place which has been our Central House for the past 18 years. Reading parts of Sr. Maejanet’s poem “The Leave-Taking” helped us to remember the many comings and goings in our life journeys.

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We were filled with gratitude as we shared our stories of going out to Mission and returning during the 18 years Leander was Home. As the poem reminded us “and yet now, time impels our going” to our new home Presentation Manor. We look forward with enthusiasm to continuing our “Life is Mission” with other Religious Communities of women and men and lay people. This broader way of Communal living will give us more opportunities to be creative in living out our Mission.

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With grateful hearts, we prayed goodbye to Leander as we prayed welcome to Presentation Manor.

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– Sr. Noreen Kearns, OLM

Courage of a Grand Chief of Treaty

 

Steve
Photo credits: https://www.thestar.com/news/investigation

Steve Fobister died last week of mercury poisoning at the age of 66 following a life dedicated to seeking justice for his people.  He served as Chief of Grassy Narrows and later as Grand Chief  of Treaty #3 leading his people through negotiations for mercury justice and against clear-cut logging.

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Long after the mercury robbed him of his mobility and his physical strength, he remained an outspoken advocate for his people and for the environment that is the foundation of their way of life.  In 2014 he held a hunger strike in front of the Provincial Legislature, relenting only when the minister committed publicly to act on Steve’s two primary demands. 1. Disability payments to those suffering from the mercury in payments reflecting rising cost of living.  2.  Mercury Care  Home in Grassy Narrows for treatment.  Only weeks ago was a design completed for such a home in Grassy Narrows with completion set in the fall of 2019.  These are measures Steve set into motion.

A memorial service was held in front of the Provincial Legislature last Thursday evening.  A sacred fire was lit and there was drumming both on a large drum and with hand drums.  Chief Rudy Turtle, friends and family members spoke of their experiences of Steve’s courage, commitment, humour and his inspiration.

-Rosemary Williamson, OLM

Thanksgiving

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“The root of joy is gratefulness….It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.”  This quote from David Steindl-Rast reminds me of a little boy in Nigeria who for me embodies this.  It was midafternoon when the sun is most intense and this boy was carrying a massive load of firewood on his head.  At the same time, he was merrily pushing an old bicycle tire frame with a forked stick seemingly oblivious to the heat or the load he was carrying!  We have much to learn from others and their simple gratitude for the gift of life.  Whenever asked to pray Nigerians almost always began by thanking God for life and being able to rise on that morning.

DSCN3567In Canada, most of us have much to be grateful for but we too have our street people, the homeless and single mothers struggling to provide for their children.  There are also many newcomers many of whom have fled violence or areas suffering from natural disasters caused by climate change.  How do we welcome them?  Do we hold our politicians accountable for their policies and do we advocate for more subsidized and low-cost housing?  Are we becoming informed about the candidates running for office in our upcoming local elections?  These are practical ways we can express our gratitude and take responsibility for sharing the blessings we have received.  There are many ways we can volunteer: soup kitchens, drop-in centers, food banks, visiting seniors, teaching English to newcomers and many more.

May our thanksgiving reach beyond one day a year to embrace a whole way of living in which we realize that all is a gift.

“Gratefulness is the inner gesture of giving meaning to our life by receiving life as a gift.”  David Steindl-Rast

-Sr. Rosemary Williamson, OLM

 

Celebrating Moon Cake Festival

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On September 24, 2018, OLMs gathered to celebrate the Moon Cake Festival hosted by Sr. Lucy Lee and her brother, Joseph, at Leander house. This Mid-Autumn Festival is a  special time which honors the annual harvest in conjunction with lunar cycles.

moncakeMooncake is a sweet, dense pastry, filled with a delicious red bean, sesame or lotus seed paste, and topped with an intricate pattern which symbolizes good-luck sentiments such as ‘longevity’ or ‘harmony’. 

Like many Chinese customs, the origins of the mooncake lie in ancient times.  In this case, a time of social and political triumph – the overthrow of the Mongol dynasty. After many attempts to invade China, the Mongols succeeded in the 13th Century, with Kublai Khan establishing the Yuan dynasty. It was an oppressive regime that saw the Chinese people ruled closely by Mongolian guards outside all their homes. Families were even expected to give the guards food and wine. 

In other words, the story behind mooncake is about a successful Chinese rebellion which coincided with the mid-autumn festival. The Chinese distributed a pastry to each resident as a disguised blessing for the longevity of the Mongol emperor.  Within each cake was a piece of paper on which was written, “Kill the Mongols on the 15th day of the eighth month”.  Since the Mongols did not care to eat this pastry, the planned rebellion succeeded and the Mongols were overthrown.

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Sr. Lucy and her brother, Joseph explain the mechanics of the game as the OLM sisters listen.

-Sr. Lorie Nuñez, OLM