India’s women/girls aren’t getting all the benefits: Of the 1,821 TB cases recorded, 59% of them came from the mines.

The settlement that began nearly four decades ago offers hope and more, as Indigenous people made known that this country’s wrongful designation of their land as protected reserve land has stalled their economic potential…

India’s women/girls aren’t getting all the benefits: Of the 1,821 TB cases recorded, 59% of them came from the mines.

The settlement that began nearly four decades ago offers hope and more, as Indigenous people made known that this country’s wrongful designation of their land as protected reserve land has stalled their economic potential and gained years of poisonous, deadly and often brutal injury and insults for an entire generation.

But instead of offering a new beginning with opportunity for a better life, our judicial system has embarked on a deliberately—and against Indigenous rights and Treaty rights—confiscatory precedent. Instead of giving the Grassy Narrows community—one of the most devastated and suppressed Indigenous communities in the country—the chance to recover, the laws of this country are steadily working to deprive them of the land and the chance to heal.

It’s that simple.

Grassy Narrows and the Grassy Bear First Nation filed a lawsuit last year seeking to have a federal court take jurisdiction over one of the last nuclear reservation mines in Canada. To respond to their claim that the territory—often called “Canadian Goldfields”—had been illegally reclaimed and allocated by the federal government in 1998, the federal government has since established land banks—as in: earmarked territories for future development—in all of the contested areas where the mining claims remain. As a result, Grassy Narrows and the Grassy Bear First Nation are stuck with 2.7 million acres of land land with about 600 homes and a hospital encased in uranium-rich territory, designated for future development if Ontario decides that it wants to mine there.

This has already crippled Grassy Narrows’ local economy. In 1984, 5,440 people lived there. Today, the community numbers just 300. More disturbingly, when a uranium mine was given tentative approval, in 1988, the community’s tuberculosis rate soared from a healthy 7.5 cases per 100,000 people to 48.2 cases per 100,000 people—a 967% increase. It’s the highest rate of TB in Canada, and a plague for an indigenous community that may have won the country’s highest and only legally protected reserve title by virtue of being granted title before the miners took it away.

Of the 1,821 cases of TB that entered Grassy Narrows’ hospital between 2012 and 2017, 59% or 248 cases were linked to the mines. Even after the mines were officially closed in the 1990s and 2003, these cases continued to occur.

This is not an isolated case. Grassy Narrows has seen the incidence of TB (bacteria that transmit from person to person) rise as much as 30 times since mining began in the area. In fact, cases have increased by 1,230% since the mining began and the overall TB rate in the area is at 103, compared to an average of 10.9 cases per 100,000 people across Canada.

Clearly, there is clear evidence of a public health emergency resulting from these mines and that the chronic, long-term exposure to radiation has had a damaging, albeit potentially fatal, impact on the health of the Grassy Narrows community.

The Grassy Narrows case may be a civil one, but it is still a civil case that cannot be dismissed because of the land banks that rest on all of the challenged areas. Furthermore, the statement of claim in the lawsuit provides a powerful picture of what residents of Grassy Narrows have suffered from the threat of this mining and the uncertainty about what may happen next. In the statement of claim, researchers interviewed families who had lived through dust explosions and arsenic poisoning, while farmers in Grassy Narrows report that for years they’ve had to hire trucks to transport their crops. In 1986, a three-year-old girl fell and broke her arm just four months after winning the right to live on Grassy Narrows land. As a result, the claim alleges, her family never recovered.

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