Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O'Regan is being urged to ensure a long-awaited visit to an Ontario First Nation is substantive and not a pre-election photo opportunity.
O'Regan is set to visit Grassy Narrows First Nation today — a community poisoned by mercury after industrial waste was dumped in the English-Wabigoon river system, causing symptoms in residents including impaired peripheral vision, hearing, speech and thinking.
Help for the community seemed to be on the way when the federal government promised a specialized treatment facility on the reserve in November 2017 and a feasibility study was produced last fall outlining costs and design ideas.
But Grassy Narrows Chief Rudy Turtle has said there has been little action on the project since then.
The federal government has issued a media advisory ahead of O'Regan's visit indicating it plans to sign a memorandum of agreement with the community — a document that is not legally binding.
Ahead of the trip, the secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, the honorary chairperson of the Council of Canadians and the president of Ontario arm of the Canadian Union of Public Employees also issued an open letter saying the onus is on the Trudeau government to demonstrate that O'Regan's visit is about more than repairing the Liberal brand.