It might seem impossible to have hope when confronted with such odds, and such a past. They were born into a First Nations community whose water and fish are saturated with enough mercury to cause generations of birth defects, whose trees are being decimated by clear-cutting, and whose children are killing themselves in record numbers.
Yet the youth in this video are making a case for hope rather than despair, stemming out of their desire to heal the land, their people, and ultimately themselves.
“It feels like home to me,” they sing gently in both English and Anishinaabemowin, the Anishinabe (Ojibwe) language. “This is a place where we love the land. Let’s work to show our pride.”
Last month the Ontario government made $300,000 available for testing the mercury-laden waters flowing through Grassy Narrows, even as the First Nation continues to turn away logging trucks that threaten to clear-cut forest, which would unleash even more of the toxic metal into the water.
Moreover, a recent report obtained by The Star found mercury levels in the blood of the umbilical cords of 139 Grassy Narrows babies tested between 1978 and 1994 high enough to affect brain development. This is on top of a letter written last summer by a former employee of the paper mill that initially dumped the mercury. In that letter, obtained in June by CBC News, a former employee said that part of his job in the 1970s was to fill barrels with mercury and salt and drop (not place) them into a pit.
The truth is slowly coming out, in other words, and the sources of ongoing leaks may soon be revealed. This, plus the youth who sing so sweetly and to the point in this video that has gone viral in Canada, are bringing attention to the wrongs done to this First Nation, and the underlying attitudes that allowed it to happen—all shining a light on the potential for cleanup, and redemption.