During the summer and fall of 2007, a number of serious incidents were reported to the authorities regarding assaults targeting Asian Canadian anglers in southern and central Ontario:
- April 27th, Georgina: A man and his 13 year old son were angling on Malone Avenue when they were approached by two men, who pushed the son into the water. A 72-year old man was also pushed, and his fishing gear damaged.
- July 22nd, Georgina: A group of anglers was approached by another group, which pushed one of the anglers into the water.
- August 5th, Georgina: A group of anglers on the Mossington Bridge was approached by a man who pushed an angler into the water.
- August 6th, Georgina: A group of people who were angling on the Mossington Bridge was approached by a man who pushed an angler into the water.
- August 18th, Georgina: A man who was angling on the Mossington Bridge was approached by two people and pushed from behind into the water.
- August 28th, Gannon’s Narrow’s Bridge: An angler was pushed into the water.
- September 15th, Westport: Three anglers were assaulted by five men on a bridge on County Road 36, and received minor injuries.
- September 16th, Georgina: Anglers on the Mossington Bridge were approached by a group of men who pushed two of the anglers into the water. In the events that ensued, one of the anglers was very seriously injured.
- September 29th, Westport: Three anglers were threatened by four males.
- September 30th, Coboconk: An angler was assaulted.
- October 25th, Hastings: Racial slurs targeting Asian Canadians were found painted under a Trent Severn Waterway bridge.
Charges have been laid in a number of these incidents.
In addition to these incidents, the Inquiry received six reports of assaults on anglers, including a submission from a person impacted by one of the incidents reported to the authorities. Some submissions detailed multiple incidents. The Inquiry also received submissions from racialized persons who live in the areas where incidents have occurred, and who wished to highlight concerns regarding discriminatory attitudes and incidents in these areas.
It is clear from both the stories of incidents targeting Asian Canadian anglers, and from submissions expressing frustration with improper fishing, that many conflicts are arising around fishing from docks, bridges and piers. Relatively few stories/submissions raised issues around boat fishing. There is more competition for public space around docks, bridges and piers, and persons fishing from these locations are not only more visible, they are more vulnerable to harassment and assault.
The nature of the incidents ranged from verbal assaults, to destruction of fishing equipment, to stone-throwing and physical assault. For example, one individual described how, when he was fishing alone in Petre Island, Orleans, near Ottawa, four young men shouted racial slurs at him, such as “fxxking back to xxx” and threw a stone into the water in front of him.
I have been fishing on a boat on Rice Lake from early October to mid-November for the last several years. During this month and a half, on average two times, there is a man ... who would come out of his house and say out loud, the fxxking Chinese (sometime he would say the fxxking Vietnamese or the fxxking Korean) is invading his backyard. (#9)
There was another incident in a small town by the name of Bewdley at Rice Lake; there is a park with a public dock adjacent to the LCBO store. One day I saw an elderly Chinese man weeping there. I went over to ask him what had happened. The elderly man said two teenaged white kids came by and kicked his lure box into the lake, and now he couldn’t fish anymore. (#9)
Some of the stories of assaults on Asian Canadian anglers were recounted by White witnesses or friends.
Last August, I and my friend, who is of Chinese origin, were fishing near the channel here in the publicly owned land, we were chased away by the local residents... When I told them we were on public property [he] threatened to push us into the lake and said “if you don’t leave now you will end up in the water.” We left because we don’t want to get into trouble. (#7)
This past summer my co-worker was accosted by a group of non-Asian men in a small fishing boat while he was fishing from a pier in the Goderich harbour area. He had been fishing alone at the chosen location for a while when the boat pulled up to him and set an anchor. The men then shouted verbal, apparently racially motivated assaults at him ... Taking into account the personality of my co-worker and my having worked with him for well over 10 years, it is clear from what he described that this was a racially motivated assault. (#6)
One gentleman, whose background is Turkish, recounted how a benign encounter while fishing turned negative once his accent revealed that he was a “foreigner”.
Each of the submissions emphasized the individual’s strong belief that the assaults were racially motivated. In the majority of the incidents, racial slurs were used.
The excuses of attackers such as “resources protection” are laughably ridiculous and completely lie. These attackers assault legal fishers who are legally fishing. The only reason is that those objectives are of a certain skin colour and facial features. If this is not racial attack, what is? (#8)
Generally, those reporting racially motivated assaults did not take steps to contact the authorities. One man expressed helplessness, stating, “There was nothing I could do”. A woman reported that she did not contact the authorities because she feared retaliation. Another man, who had stones and racial slurs directed his way, stated:
Being afraid of further attack, I chose not to fight back, and they left with extreme happiness. (#8)
These incidents have a significant effect on those targeted. Some indicated that they would never again fish in the communities where they had had a negative experience:
I have never gone back to Peterborough fishing since, because I am afraid some of them may push me into the lake. (#5)
Others spoke of changing their fishing habits; for example, they avoid fishing alone, or ensure that they have a cell phone with them while fishing:
I am afraid to go fishing by myself. I would have my friends with me before I would go fishing in Rice Lake and surrounding areas. (#9)
As well as the immediate trauma of the experience, the assaults left not only the direct victims, but also their friends and family members, with lingering fears:
Hearing his description of the experience I was very upset and I am concerned that he could come to physical harm some day. This especially if something like this was to occur when he is accompanied by his young daughter. (#6)
This incident psychologically impacted my son tremendously, as the hospitalized person is my son’s childhood friend ...Because this incident traumatized my son immensely, he still cannot sleep at night even though he is under treatment by medical professionals. My wife is also having nightmares from this. She often wakes up at night calling my son’s name.
Some of the submissions pointed to the impact of the assaults on the Asian Canadian community as a whole.
No Asians feel safe to do any sport fishing. This is not the first time things of this nature happened. Why didn’t the police take any action until it almost cost a human life before something is done? (#4)
It has already caused an atmosphere of fear that in effect strips from Asian visible minorities the fundamental freedom to live as equal citizens and to enjoy the benefits of the community. (#15)
Most fundamentally, for some, their faith in Canada’s ability to live up to the values it expresses has been undermined:
Canada, as a named country of “multiculturalism” should have put more efforts on protecting human rights equality and pay more attention to the racially-oriented criminal. (#8)
To this point, while I see very positive things happening, it seems that the deeper issues are not being addressed – the kind of perception that the problem lies with the victimized, in a disturbing lack of perspective ... I can tell you that unless condemnation is quick and hard, hate does truly escalate, through silence from the society. (#15)
The profound sense of vulnerability and disadvantage that may result from these kinds of events is not soon forgotten, and may have a long-term impact on the sense of security and inclusion of the affected community.