Recreational fishing can be a treasured family or community activity, as well as a way of enjoying the great outdoors. Tourism associated with fishing is also of significant economic benefit to many Ontario communities. Recreational fishing is, of course, but one of many water sports enjoyed by Ontarians. Locals, seasonal residents, and daytrippers all share the use of the lakes, rivers and other waterways of southern and central Ontario.
A submission from an individual who works in an official capacity managing one of the waterways near where several assaults have occurred provides a broad perspective on conflicts occurring around access to water sports. This individual pointed out that there has been growing stress and competition surrounding the use of waterways within reach of daytrips from the Greater Toronto Area. There is an increasing number of daytrippers, and the demand for access to the water is outstripping the supply. This is exacerbated by the trend which is replacing “family oriented” facilities with higher end resorts and cottage developments. Some of the social conflict is related to incompatibility between recreational uses – for example, between night fishing and overnight boat mooring and camping. This individual emphasized that, while racism is clearly a factor in the events that have occurred, it is arising in the context of a broader social conflict over access to resources, and these underlying issues must be resolved in order to ease tensions.
These observations are borne out by the emphasis in many of the submissions, not on conservation, but on difficulties that locals, seasonal residents and daytrippers are having in sharing space, particularly on docks, piers and bridges.
A number of submissions raised concerns about conservation and protection of fish stocks. Conservation and protection of Ontario’s fisheries is not only a moral and environmental imperative, it is also essential to the livelihoods of many Ontarians.
In ‘cottage country’, maintenance of fishing stocks is a bread-and-butter issue as well as one of enjoyment. If the regulations designed to keep the fish stocks healthy are not enforced, it damages everyone’s livelihood. (#21)
In Ontario, recreational fishing is governed through a complex set of laws and regulations, aimed at balancing recreational and economic interests with long-term conservation and management of fish stocks. The federal Fisheries Act protects and conserves fish and fish habitat. The Ontario Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act governs the issuances of fishing licences. Anglers must ensure that they have obtained the appropriate licences. They are also regulated in terms of where and when they may fish (open and closed fishing seasons); how many fish of a particular fish species they may catch and keep; the size of the fish that may be caught; and the type of gear and bait that may be used to catch fish.
A number of the submissions to the Inquiry raised concerns about a lack of knowledge and awareness of the laws regarding fishing, and emphasized the importance of education and awareness campaigns for all anglers, in order to ensure conservation of fish stocks. These submissions also expressed considerable frustration with the lack of enforcement of fishing regulations. Several of those making submissions to the Inquiry had themselves in the past contacted the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) or the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) about fishing violations, to no avail.
I personally know of citizens here that have tried to get MNR and the OPP to do spot checks on licensing, for example, not just for Asians but all who come to fish here, as being an avid licensed angler I feel it is only fair that all should pay for this privilege. We have had little cooperation from any agency. (#20)
While conservation and protection of fish stocks are important objectives, there is clearly a racial overtone to many submissions raising conservation issues. The Commission is disturbed that some are attempting to use conservation issues to justify or explain assaults or hostility towards Asian Canadians. Again, there is no evidence to suggest that Asian Canadians are disproportionately likely to disrespect conservation laws.