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Grassy Narrows chief, NDP candidate urges Ottawa to talk turkey on mercury

Chief Rudy Turtle of the Grassy Narrows First Nation speaks during a press conference announcing his candidacy for the NDP in Kenora, Ont. for the fall election, on the lawn of Parliament Hill in Ottawa on July 29, 2019. Grassy Narrows First Nation Chief and NDP candidate Rudy Turtle is urging Indigenous Services Seamus O'Regan to sit down with him face-to-face to hammer out an agreement on a long-promised medical facility for community members plagued by mercury contamination.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

OTTAWA — The chief of Grassy Narrows First Nation, an NDP candidate in this fall’s federal election, wants to sit down with Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan to hammer out an agreement on a long-promised treatment facility for mercury poisoning.

Rudy Turtle, who is running in the federal riding of Kenora, says O’Regan has not been willing to meet with him since he came to the community at the end of May in what turned out to be an unsuccessful effort to get the agreement signed.

Turtle says that with the Oct. 21 election looming, time is running out to reach a deal, since major sticking points remain unresolved between the community and Ottawa, including funding levels and the design of the facility.

Turtle says Grassy Narrows wants $19 million for the construction of the facility, which would provide specialized care for community members dealing with the symptoms of mercury contamination, including speech and mobility problems.

He says Ottawa has proposed $10 million for the facility instead.

O’Regan’s office says it remains steadfast in its commitment to build the facility, and that while the minister is closely engaged, health and engineering experts who are part of a technical working group are the ones best placed to make it happen.


The Canadian Press