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Preliminary findings: Inquiry into assaults on Asian Canadian Anglers

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During the summer and fall of 2007, there were reports of a series of incidents across southern and central Ontario in which Asian Canadian anglers were physically or verbally assaulted. Racial slurs were associated with a number of these incidents. The Ontario Human Rights Commission (“the Commission”) was gravely concerned by these reports.

In keeping with its mandate under the Ontario Human Rights Code (“the Code”) to inquire into incidents or conditions leading to tension or conflict, and encourage programs to address such problems, on November 2, 2007, the Commission launched an Inquiry into the assaults on Asian Canadian anglers. The purposes of this Inquiry are to:

  • Learn more about the nature of the incidents and the extent to which a systemic problem exists;
  • Support those affected and refer them to appropriate resources;
  • Build capacity within communities and responsible government bodies to deal with issues of tension and conflict;
  • Identify possible solutions; and
  • Raise public awareness about racism and racial profiling.

In partnership with the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic (MTCSALC), the Commission supported a telephone hotline and online survey to receive information from persons who had experienced or witnessed incidents, and to refer those affected to appropriate community and government resources for further response. Interpretation services were available in Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese and Korean. The telephone hotline and online survey operated from November 7, 2007 until December 6, 2007.

These Preliminary Findings are intended to report on the results of the hotline and survey, and will form the basis for the Commission’s further actions on the issues identified.

The Inquiry received 34 submissions. Submissions were received from across southern and central Ontario, including from communities in the area of Aurora and Richmond Hill, Ottawa, and Lake Huron. However, the majority of the submissions came from three areas: Lake Simcoe, Peterborough, and the Rideau Locks, which are all popular areas for locals and tourists alike who enjoy water sports, including angling. Some of the submissions were from Asian Canadians who had experienced racial harassment and assaults while angling, or in other settings. Other submissions were from members of communities where reported incidents had taken place; some of these expressed concerns about racism in their communities, others highlighted conservation issues, and a significant number expressed negative and discriminatory sentiments towards Asian Canadians.

The Commission has not conducted investigations into the submissions received. The Preliminary Findings are not intended to, and should not be read as, drawing conclusions about the frequency with which Asian Canadian anglers face hostility or assaults. Nor should they be considered a basis for assumptions about the characteristics or attitudes of any particular community. From the Commission’s perspective, even a single racially-based assault on an Asian Canadian angler would be of grave concern. Given the seriousness of some of the reported assaults, and their effect on the Asian Canadian community, the Commission views these events with the utmost seriousness.

The Commission would like to thank all those who assisted this Inquiry, whether by making submissions or by providing the Commission with the benefit of their information and advice. In particular, the Commission would like to acknowledge the invaluable contribution of the MTCSALC to this Inquiry.

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