The Ontario Minister of Indigenous Affairs announced that the Mercury Disability Board (MDB) payments made to individuals affected by mercury poisoning will be indexed to inflation commencing in October, with retroactive payments to shortly follow. The Chief and Council of Asubpeeschoseewagong Netum Anishinabek (ANA or Grassy Narrows First Nation) welcome this announcement, and see it as an important first step in ensuring that the MDB lives up to its intended mandate of adequately compensating people for the devastating health effects of mercury.
The MDB was established in 1985 to provide financial compensation to First Nations people whose health is affected by mercury poisoning as a result of industrial contamination of their river system by a pulp and paper mill upstream. However, the monthly disability payments, ranging between $250 and $800, were not indexed to inflation and as a result have been frozen at 1985 levels for the past three decades. Today, the disability payments are worth only a fraction of their 1985 value. Indexation is routinely incorporated into government sponsored disability benefit schemes and is critical to maintaining the value of the disability benefit over time. The indexing of MDB disability payments will roughly double the monthly payment going forward, as well as provide retroactive payments to recipients who are still alive to compensate for their loses over the years as a result of the failure to index.