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Supreme Court to hear case on clean-up of mercury at northern Ontario mill site

OTTAWA (From news reports) -- The Supreme Court of Canada says it will hear a legal dispute over whether the Ontario government can force Weyerhaeuser Co. and Resolute Forest Products to clean up a contaminated site upstream of the Grassy Narrows First Nation.

The two sides have been at odds since the province ordered the companies in 2011 to remediate the former mill site in Dryden, Ont., where some 9,000 kilograms of toxic effluent was dumped in the English-Wabigoon River system in the 1960s.

The two companies claim that indemnity granted some 30 years ago to the company that owned the site at the time applies to them as well, something the province disputes.

An Ontario Superior Court judge ruled in favour of the companies in 2016, stating that the language of the indemnity should cover the two subsequent owners as well. The Ontario Court of Appeal overturned the ruling, stating that context was essential to a final determination.

The mercury contamination has led to long-term health impacts for the First Nation that continue today.

Last year, Ontario's former Liberal government committed $85 million to remediate the river system, while the federal government has committed to funding a treatment centre for those affected by mercury poisoning.

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