Ontarians have been shocked by a number of violent incidents involving Asian Canadians who have been physically and verbally assaulted while fishing in several communities around the province. Racial slurs have been associated with a number of assaults.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission (the Commission) has been working hard to raise the human rights concerns surrounding these events. These relate both to considering the racism and racial profiling elements of the incidents as well as the effect of this issue on the Asian Canadian community. It is also important to consider the role of the Commission, police services, government ministries and elected leaders in addressing incidents of racially based tension and conflict when they arise.
There is a difference between actions that are based on actual information or behaviour rather than on racial stereotypes. Human rights concerns arise when Asian Canadians are targeted for greater scrutiny or it is assumed that because they are Asian Canadian they are fishing inappropriately. Assaults targeting a particular group cannot be justified by raising allegations of illegal activity.
Where racial slurs such as the term “Nipper Tipping” are linked to events, it is a further indication that racial stereotyping or prejudice are at play.
What is the Commission doing?
The Commission has a mandate, set out in the Ontario Human Rights Code (the “Code”) to, among other things, inquire into incidents or conditions leading to tension or conflict, to initiate investigations into problems in society, to encourage programs to address such problems and to conduct public education to promote understanding of and compliance with the Code.
Using this mandate, in partnership with the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic (MTCSALC), the Commission is supporting a telephone hotline and online survey to receive information from persons who have experienced or witnessed incidents and to refer those affected to appropriate community and government resources for further response. The telephone hotline and online survey will start on November 7, 2007 and operate for a period of 4 weeks ending December 6, 2007.
Through this process, the Commission hopes to learn more about the nature of the incidents and the extent to which a systemic problem exists, support those who have been 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 the coming months, the Commission will take a number of other steps to support these goals including:
- continuing to monitor media reports and publicly voice concerns about the human rights elements of these events;
- calling on governments to take a leadership role both in denouncing racist behaviour where it exists and taking action within their scope of responsibility;
- identifying and communicating with specific parts of government that have a role to play in addressing these incidents and referring persons to them as necessary;
- reviewing past recommendations related to racial profiling, racism and hate crimes to determine the progress of their implementation and calling on those responsible for full implementation of recommendations that have been made; and
- in keeping with our commitment to public accountability, reporting on the activities we undertake.
The Commission will be working closely with MTCSALC and other community partners in delivering on these commitments and looks forward to the support of all of those affected by this issue.
What is the purpose of the hotline and survey?
The telephone hotline and survey are easy ways for the Commission to receive information from persons who have experienced or witnessed such incidents, and for the Commission and MTCSALC to provide support and referral to appropriate community and government resources for further response.
What will this information be used for?
This telephone hotline and survey is a part of a larger process to inquire into incidents involving Asian Canadian anglers in Ontario. The Commission hopes to learn more about the nature of the incidents and the extent to which a systemic problem exists, support those who have been affected, build capacity within communities and responsible government bodies to deal with issues of tension and conflict, identify solutions and raise public awareness about racism and racial profiling.
How can I share my experiences?
From November 7, 2007 through December 6, 2007, affected individuals may participate in the process by telephone, through the Web or in writing:
Local: (416) 971-5939
Toll free: 1-866-237-1897
Interpretation services will be available in Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Korean and Tagalog
Via the Web: An online survey may be completed at www.ohrc.on.ca.
In Writing: Submissions may be sent by mail or fax. If responding in writing you must provide contact details: name, address, phone number, e-mail address (for verification, not publication). Send your written comments to:
Ontario Human Rights Commission
Inquiry into Assaults on Asian Canadian Anglers
180 Dundas Street West
Fax: (416) 314-4533
Where appropriate, further information about filing a human rights complaint, contacting police or accessing victim services will be provided.
While all accounts will assist the Commission in this initiative, the Commission may only identify a few accounts received through the phone, Web or in writing for further participation in the process.
Material that is offensive, vexatious or inconsistent with human rights legislation will not be accepted.
How will confidentiality be protected?
Contact information is being collected for the purpose of verifying the accounts received and so that the Commission can contact you if necessary. All submissions must contain a name, address, telephone number and, where applicable, an e-mail address. Anonymous submissions will not be accepted.
Contact information will be kept confidential. Names will not be published without permission. The Commission is governed by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, R.S.O. 1990 F.31.