|The Montreal Gazette|
Friday, December 14, 2007
TORONTO — Civic and political leaders need to voice their concerns about attacks against Asian anglers if racism is to be combatted, community leaders said Friday following the release of an Ontario Human Rights Commission report.
In issuing her preliminary findings into the nature of the incidents and the extent to which attacks against Asian Canadian fishermen is a systemic problem, Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall said violence and harassment of Asian anglers “remind us that racism and racial discrimination exist in Ontario."
Hall said the commission, which will present its final report in the spring, received 34 submissions including six reports of attacks on Asian anglers.
The other 28 voiced thoughts about conservation issues while a “significant" number expressed “negative and discriminatory sentiments" towards Asian Canadians.
“It is disturbing that many submissions raising conservation concerns showed the very kind of stereotyping and name-calling that the commission is fighting against," Hall said in her report.
Chinese community leaders attributed the low number of calls to the commission from fisherman to feelings of futility – that the larger community doesn’t care about their concerns and that police did not act on incidents that were reported in the past.
The commission launched an inquiry in November following nearly a dozen reported incidents in communities in southern Ontario of Chinese fisherman being attacked, both physically and verbally, with some having their fishing gear damaged or being pushed off docks.
Simon Li, host of Power Politics, a Chinese language Toronto radio call-in show said he received more than 20 calls during a one-hour segment from Asian anglers who reported being the victims of verbal or physical attacks.
He said many callers said they were afraid to go to police or had gone to police but felt the incidents weren’t thoroughly investigated.
Susan Eng, of the anti-racism organization Reference Group, said Chinese Canadians will continue to feel reluctant to report incidents of harassment until politicians show leadership.
In a letter to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, a coalition of anti-racism and community groups called for the province to direct police and crown attorneys to vigorously prosecute hate motivated crimes.
“What we need to do is show them their concerns do concern the rest of society and that if they were to make noise they will be supported," said Eng. “We can’t solve every single problem. All we can say is on balance for every attack there has been some type of systemic response."
Police in York Region, where some of the incidents occurred, said they have made several related arrests and the cases are currently working their way through the courts.