For immediate publication
Toronto - Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall today released the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Preliminary Findings of its Inquiry into Assaults against Asian Canadian Anglers. The Inquiry, which was launched on November 2nd, stemmed from a series of media reports and community concerns about a number of incidents across south and central Ontario in which Asian Canadian anglers were physically or verbally assaulted while fishing.
“These incidents remind us that racism and racial discrimination exist in Ontario and show how harmful such events can be for all of us,” stated Barbara Hall, further adding that, “What is clear is that the simple activity of going fishing for some Asian Canadian anglers has taken on very disturbing racial overtones.”
The Inquiry, launched in partnership with the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic (MTCSALC), invited individuals who had either encountered or witnessed incidents while fishing to share their experiences by way of a telephone hotline or an online survey. During the course of the Inquiry, the Commission received over 30 accounts from across south and central Ontario including from communities in the areas of Aurora and Richmond Hill, Ottawa, and Lake Huron. The majority of submissions came from three areas: Lake Simcoe, Peterborough, and the Rideau Locks, all popular areas for locals and tourists who enjoy water sports, including angling.
Accounts reveal experiences of racial harassment, ranging from verbal assaults using racial slurs, to destruction of fishing equipment, to stone-throwing. Racialized anglers have felt their physical and psychological safety and integrity threatened, and in some of the cases under police investigation, they have been subjected to physical violence. The reports also show the profound impacts of the incidents on the individual involved, their friends and families, and the Asian Canadian community as a whole. Anglers who contacted the Inquiry, also expressed a sense of helplessness or fear of reprisal in reporting incidents to authorities.
A number of submissions raised concerns about conservation and protection of fish stocks. Conservation and protection of Ontario’s fisheries are not only important in environmental terms, they are also vital to the livelihoods of many Ontarians. While these are important objectives, it is disturbing that many submissions raising conservation concerns showed the very kind of stereotyping and name-calling that the Commission is fighting against. It is also of concern when Asian Canadian anglers are viewed as outsiders in relatively homogeneous communities and assumed to be breaking the laws.
“Stereotyping any one community by assuming that certain people are more likely to commit illegal activity is not only wrong, it’s against the law”, stated Hall, further commenting that, ”In a society as diverse as ours, we need to learn about each other, from each other and how we can work together to fight racism, discrimination and harassment whenever and wherever it occurs.”
The Commission will be working with community partners, meet with responsible institutions to find solutions and take effective action.
In Spring 2008, the Commission will release a Final Report outlining conclusions and a plan of action so that root causes are addressed and these kinds of incidents do not happen again.
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