Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak to the question from the hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing. Let me assure the hon. member that the health of first nations communities is an absolute priority for the Government of Canada. Addressing the concerns of mercury contamination in Grassy Narrows First Nation is no exception. Our government takes the issue of mercury poisoning and its potential health effects seriously.
The Government of Canada continues to work with the Mercury Disability Board and the Government of Ontario to support the work of the board in addressing the issue of mercury contamination. The board was established in 1986 in response to mercury poisoning of the English-Wabigoon River system. The board supervises administration of the fund from which benefits are paid to claimants whose health may have been affected by mercury contamination. Since 1986, Canada has contributed more than $9 million in compensation to Grassy Narrows First Nation, which was affected by mercury contamination.
Health Canada has made progress on addressing contamination issues by working with willing partners to achieve tangible results. Through the First Nation and Inuit Health Branch, Health Canada monitors the exposure of first nations to environmental contaminants, including mercury. Our government knows that for communities like the Grassy Narrows First Nation, access to safe water, land and contamination-free traditional food sources is of utmost importance.
The health, safety and security of all Canadians and the environment are important for our government. That is why we, along with the Province of Ontario, first nations, scientists and industry, are working together to invest in initiatives to monitor the effects of mercury contamination on the environment in the English-Wabigoon River system in northwestern Ontario.
We are committed to the health of first nation communities. We are working with our partners to ensure that first nations and all Canadians across the country have access to a safe environment, which in turn results in long-term prosperity for us all.