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‘We are more than mercury’: The youth from a place known for poisoned land and water are sending a message




The Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation, also known as Grassy Narrows, is an Indigenous nation in northwestern Ontario, an hour north of Kenora, Ont.

It’s an Anishinabek community with a rich history of multicultural hunters, trappers, fishers and harvesters of the land. But in recent history, it’s been launched into the national spotlight as the First Nation poisoned by mercury.

Song written, recorded and filmed in Grassy Narrows First Nation.

Media coverage of the dumping, which began in the early 1960s, has exposed the world to the community’s incredible suffering caused by contamination of the land, water and fish, the consumption of which has made many of its members sick. (About 1,000 people live on the reserve.)

In April 2016, with support from N’we Jinan, youth in Grassy Narrows — including Darwin Fobister and Hailey Loon — released an original song called “Home to Me,” which draws attention to the community’s struggle with deforestation and contamination, but also highlights the strength they draw from their deep connection to the environment. N’we Jinan is a nonprofit organization that brings a mobile recording studio into communities across North America to help youth express themselves through song with professional guidance.

Today, the youth have a message for the public: “We are more than mercury.”

DARWIN FOBISTER, 21: ‘I decided to work with Grassy’s youth because they saw me as a leader’

Darwin Fobister on the Grassy Narrows reserve. He writes about working with youth: "I can't say kids here have everything, but I see everything in them."
Darwin Fobister on the Grassy Narrows reserve. He writes about working with youth: « I can’t say kids here have everything, but I see everything in them. »

I didn’t find out until the age of 5 about the mercury poisoning. I started having seizures — my mother’s umbilical cord had a high amount of mercury in it. The doctors knew when I was born that I wasn’t a normal baby.

When I was 8, my grandma and my dad told me everything. They said my parents ate a lot of fish, and explained about the pulp mill, which dumped mercury into the river system in the 1960s.

They told me we were sick.

Every day I have headaches, and I can’t feel my hands sometimes. They get numb. My speech was way off, too — I had to take special education.

But I never let mercury bother me too much. We need to move forward.

Now, I’m the recreational activator at the community’s multi-purpose complex. I put on activities for the kids to give them a brighter future and an active life.

Eight-year-old Patience Fobister takes a swing during a home game against the Whitedog Thunderhawks last summer.
Eight-year-old Patience Fobister takes a swing during a home game against the Whitedog Thunderhawks last summer.

I decided to work with Grassy’s youth because they saw me as a leader. They looked up to me because I never turned to alcohol and drugs.

I can’t say kids here have everything, but I see everything in them. They’re involved in their culture, they’re learning how to get the community back together instead of separated. They enjoy the moccasin game; they pick wild rice and learn how to process and cook it.

I see leaders around here. I don’t see mercury. When I think about our people, I think about our hunting, fishing and trapping — the cultural practices we still live today.

The media’s focus on mercury means we’re no longer alone. We have the world’s support and it makes everybody in Grassy feel stronger.

But our community is not all about mercury. We don’t want to think of a dying tree, we want to think of a living tree — healthy with growing green leaves. That’s the truth. I enjoy my life. I enjoy my fishing and my great-grandfather’s teachings.

Part of my happy story is filmmaking. I started taking pictures and videos as a teenager because I love nature and the beautiful sites around the reserve. I take them to bring out beauty in the community, so people don’t think that they have nothing.

Water rushes over the rocks near a waterfall in the Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation's traditional territory on a June day.
Water rushes over the rocks near a waterfall in the Asubpeeschoseewagong First Nation’s traditional territory on a June day.

My friends from around the world like my videos. They start to see what’s really going on in Grassy, the positives and the negatives. My work is showing people that there are youth here who are interested in these kinds of things, and in honouring the land and the water the way our elders did — but with the new tools available to us.

HAILEY LOON, 17: ‘If I started a tourism business I would show people there’s so much more’

Grade 11 student Hailey Loon is a hiphop dancer and writer, seen here outside Sakatcheway Anishinabe School in Grassy Narrows. A friend had heard about her reserve. "I had to tell him it's not all about mercury; not everyone is affected by it. He just said, 'Wow.' "
Grade 11 student Hailey Loon is a hiphop dancer and writer, seen here outside Sakatcheway Anishinabe School in Grassy Narrows. A friend had heard about her reserve. « I had to tell him it’s not all about mercury; not everyone is affected by it. He just said, ‘Wow.’ «

My mom never ate fish when she was pregnant with me. I grew up mostly with my grandparents, and fish was a regular part of my diet.

But I don’t have any mercury symptoms. I’m lucky. It’s hard watching other people suffer from the symptoms.

There’s a lot more going on here than mercury problems though. I met a friend once from Ignace, Ont., and he was doing a school project on Grassy Narrows. He told me that all he could find online was mercury reports and news articles about it.

I had to tell him it’s not all about mercury; not everyone is affected by it. He just said, “Wow.” I told him my story and how I’m not really poisoned by the mercury.

This is my story: I play sports, walk around in the bush and hang out at home with my mom and we bead together. I play Scrabble at my kookum’s (grandmother’s) and we talk about life.

Last year, I joined a program called Outside Looking In (OLI) because I needed a high school credit. OLI brings dance education to Indigenous youth and their communities.

Rehearsals were tough, but I’m really glad I stayed because it was a new experience for me. I met a lot of people and it was amazing. I never thought I could dance until OLI came here. But I motivated myself to learn and try hard.

We went to Toronto in May and danced onstage in front of like 2,000 people. I feel really proud of myself and I know I inspired kids because they came up to me after I got back and asked me how my experience was, and how it was at camp, and how it felt.

I’ll probably do it again this year. If there’s one thing I would want people to know about Grassy Narrows, it’s that Grassy Narrows is a beautiful place with beautiful scenery. If I had to start up a tourism business, I would show people that there’s so much more.

DARCY WILLIAMSON, 27: ‘I want to become a paramedic or get into nursing, and bring that back’

Grass dancer Darcy Williamson performs at the Iskatewizaagegan First Nation (Shoal Lake 39) Summer Pow-Wow in August. "When people see me, I don't want them to see someone poisoned by mercury. I want them to see a culturally oriented community member."
Grass dancer Darcy Williamson performs at the Iskatewizaagegan First Nation (Shoal Lake 39) Summer Pow-Wow in August. « When people see me, I don’t want them to see someone poisoned by mercury. I want them to see a culturally oriented community member. »

I’ve been playing hockey since I was 4 years old, so I know what it’s like outside of the community and I know what’s going on inside the community.

I played in Kenora from Grade 9 to the end of high school, played for Team Ontario at the National Aboriginal Hockey Championships, and then played junior A in Sault Ste. Marie, Toronto and Thunder Bay.

And I did hear stuff about Grassy brought up in those cities. I heard about the mercury problem and the forestry, both good and bad. But sports brought me out of my shell — I gained more confidence and started to find out that mercury didn’t have to be a huge factor in my life.

I feel like the media only covers the bad stuff here. Why not talk about the powwows? The cultural camp that happened over the summer? The fish derbies? The way our community and school came together during the Humboldt Broncos tragedy?

I wish they could find a balance in coverage, just like life — life needs a balance between the good and the bad.

When people see me, I don’t want them to see someone poisoned by mercury. I want them to see a culturally oriented community member.

I’m also a grass dancer, and when I dance, I dance to feel good about myself. Or when someone is asking me for help or advice, when I enter the circle to dance I pray for them and for their healing. It’s a good path to go on.

I went to Lakehead University for a while and studied Indigenous learning. I did pre-health science, and ultimately, I think I want to become a paramedic or get into nursing, and bring that back to the community — something that’s really needed.

For now, I’m the phys-ed teacher at our community school. One of my goals is to bring all the hockey knowledge that I have to the students here and show them there’s a lot more out there than what they see here.

Published with support from Journalists for Human Rights and the Ontario Trillium Foundation


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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme




Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year




In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal




MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.


The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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