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Fishing season 2008/2009

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According to York Regional Police, the Ontario Provincial Police, fishing associations and other community organizations, there were far fewer formal reports of incidents involving harassment or assault of Asian Canadian anglers since the autumn of 2007 than there had been the previous year.

The following incidents were reported to police during the 2008/2009 fishing season:

  • In March of 2008, an article entitled “Let’s All Welcome Our Chinese Anglers” was released as part of an on-line fishing association newsletter. Although the article appeared to have been written with the intent of encouraging cooperation between non-Chinese and Chinese Canadian anglers, the message had a much different impact.

    The article wrongly advised people to approach anglers who appeared Chinese and ask to see their catches and if they had fishing licenses. The article met with great alarm from angling groups with Asian Canadian members. The article had the potential to expose Asian Canadians to harassment from others, and depicted Asian Canadians as engaging in illegal fishing.

    After the article was released, in April 2008, there was at least one formal report from an Asian Canadian person fishing in Bradford, who was asked by someone who was not an enforcement officer if he had a valid fishing licence. After intervention from the York Regional Police, the newsletter article was removed from the website.
  • On May 11, 2008, near Kirkfield, Ontario, a man approached a group of Asian Canadian anglers who were fishing from the Trent River and spoke to them about the fishing, and then pushed one of the men into the water. The OPP have investigated the incident but no charges were laid.
  • On January 31, 2009, several Asian Canadian anglers were participating in an ice fishing tournament in Sutton Ontario. They experienced an incident in which a man who claimed he owned the lake told them they could not fish there, swore at them, and then intimidated them with his vehicle. Later, the men called MNR and were told that they were doing nothing wrong. This incident was reported to York Regional Police. In response to this incident, the mayor of Georgina called the anglers and offered his apologies.

Some people, upon hearing about others’ concerns, came forward and reported incidents that happened to them previously. For example:

  • In a report of one incident in or around the summer of 2007 in Bewdley Ontario, a woman reported that her friends had their bucket of fish turned over and a man swore at them and yelled repeatedly, “go back to China, go back to Japan.” The man then pushed her friend’s fishing rod out of his hand.
  • One individual, who identifies as Chinese Canadian, described his and his friends’ experience (one of whom is Chinese Canadian, and the other is Canadian and Jewish) boating off a public landing in the City of Peterborough a couple of summers ago:

    “There were a bunch of teenagers; they were all Caucasian. Completely unprovoked, they started throwing rocks at us. We yelled across the street, asking them to stop, and there was no response; they kept on throwing. A few of the kids followed us and crossed the street, and I don’t recall verbatim what they said, but the gist was to [my friend] something to the effect of “Was he Jewish,” and “why is he smiling?” They were clearly concerned with respect to what [my friend] was...judging from what they were saying to [him], I imagine that it was to some extent racially motivated.”

Just as it had in 2007, YRP set up an undercover operation to catch any individuals who harassed or assaulted any anglers. Fortunately, the 30-day operation was uneventful. In the words of one of the project’s officers:

“[Project Safe Shores’] goal was to satisfy that things were back to normal, and it gave us some feedback in that sense in that the work was done: that in fact those areas were safe for the public to use.”

Although there were fewer reported incidents during the fishing season in 2008, Commission staff did hear of informal reports of further troubling incidents, but the victims chose not to report their experiences to police. This is an indication that further work needs to be done to address barriers to reporting, including public education about hate crimes, outreach to underserviced communities, and ensuring multi-language services. Part of this response includes ensuring that victims have adequate support from community agencies if they do not want police to become involved.[2]

One person, a member of an angling organization that serves many Chinese newcomers, indicates that he experienced and witnessed multiple incidents. He provided this insight:

I feel this kind of thing hurts Asian anglers. Most people keep silent; they don’t speak up. If they don’t know English, they don’t know how to report. They are telling me instead.

Canada is a multicultural country. If they had a hotline, a police hotline, in languages other than English or French, that’s much better. Give them some way to protect themselves. Because if they don’t know English they can’t report properly.

There can be a number of reasons why there have been fewer reported incidents of hate activity against Asian Canadian anglers after the Inquiry. In general, the fishing season across Ontario in 2008 was poor, with bad weather and high gas prices forcing many people from their usual fishing spots.

However, individuals from community organizations have indicated that the combined efforts of the Inquiry, and the speedy initiatives undertaken by many organizations, particularly police, have resulted in greater awareness of this issue on the part of the general public. The extensive media coverage has helped in this regard. The Commission understands that these combined efforts have demonstrated that these incidents were taken very seriously. The Commission hopes that this in turn resulted in increased safety for anglers, increased understanding around racism, and has deterred harassing behaviour. In one person’s words:

I know last year, your organization had some talk about trying to do something. That’s why this time I reported it to the police. Otherwise I wouldn’t report. If this happened two years ago, I wouldn’t have reported it.

[2] Recommendation 34 in the Hate Crimes Community Working Group Report states, “Shift funding of community-based victim services from short-term, project-based funding, to long-term sustainable funding (OVSS, MCSCS).” Hate Crimes Community Working Group. Addressing Hate Crime in Ontario: Final Report of the Hate Crimes Community Working Group to the Attorney General and the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. (Ontario, 2006) at 93.

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