Sunday, November 04, 2007

Are They Less Canadians???


Ken Cao, centre, from Markham, fishes with friends near Jackson’s Point on Lake Simcoe. There have been reports of assault, mischief and theft against Asian-Canadian fishermen in the area.

Hate Crimes or Just Hooliganism? The Human Rights Commission will soon find out and the Police is investigating them as Hate Crimes...

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has launched an inquiry into a string of recent assaults against Asian Canadian fishermen.

Chief commissioner and former Toronto mayor Barbara Hall made the announcement just days after York police revealed they'd laid more charges in the recent attacks.

"The first part is we're setting up a hotline, which we'll run for a month. We're encouraging people who have experienced violence or witnessed violence to contact us," Hall said after the news conference. "Then we'll be providing support, whether it's legal support (for anyone seeking damages) or counseling."

The commission plans to report back with recommendations.

A month ago, the Toronto Star broke the story about Asian Fishermen victimized by theft, assaults and mischiefs and four cases were confirmed. Since, more came forward, saying they too had been a victim of what the local youths called “nippertipping”.

"Nippertipping," a term coined from a derogatory word for the Japanese and the rural prank known as cow tipping, consists of sneaking up behind fishermen and shoving them in the lake.

Account of assaults stretch from Peterbourough to Kingston (Peterborough is 135 kms from Toronto, while Kingston is 260, both East) although is some cases in Westport for example, (45 minutes north of Kingston), some residents say the motivation for the attacks is not “racism’ but illicit nighttime fishing in supposedly protected sanctuary.

A coalition of Asian Canadian community groups called on police to investigate the attacks as hate crimes. Both York police and the Ontario Provincial Police announced they would be calling in their hate-crimes units, and last Sunday, police announced they had laid charges in four of six confirmed assaults.

Throughout these developments, a 23-year-old Toronto man has been fighting for his life. Yesterday marked an important day for Colin and Terry Berwick – their son, Shayne, pulled through a milestone surgery.

His skull was successfully put back together."You just can't imagine. The first time he opened his eyes. Elation. You just can't describe," Colin Berwick said yesterday after leaving the hospital. "Things are still crazy. I'm only working half days. I go to work, come home, pick up Terry. We're at the hospital every day. (Our son) Michael is there every night. Then on Saturdays we try to take some time for ourselves. We volunteer at the arena."

Doctors initially gave Shayne a 10 per cent chance of surviving. He and some friends had been fishing off Mossington Bridge in the town of Sutton, late at night Sept. 16, when two of his friends where pushed into the river by some locals, police said.

A fight broke out between the two groups. Shayne and his friends sped away from the bridge in a Honda Civic. One of the town kids chased them in a truck, police said, eventually running them off the road. Shayne and a friend were thrown from the car.

He's been in hospital ever since.

Trevor Middleton, 20, of Sutton was charged with two counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm. On Oct. 22, police said he would also be charged with two additional assaults in the bridge incident. Last Sunday, Nicholas Perry, 19, also of Sutton, was also charged in the same altercation.

Police also learned of a fifth incident on Aug. 5, where a 37-year-old Toronto man was thrown into the water. Scott MacEachern, 19, who had already been charged in connection with an assault Aug. 6, was charged.

"We've now laid charges in four of six known incidents," Staff Sgt. Ricky Veerappan said following yesterday's news conference. "These are being investigated by the hate crimes unit, these are lengthy investigations, and we're still looking for witnesses."

"This is incredible news," said lawyer Avvy Go.

"Since the story was reported, we've heard of at least one incident going back as far as two years ago," she said.

People who believe they've been the victim of a racially motivated assault while fishing can call 1-866-237-1897 after Nov. 7. Interpreters fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Korean and Tagalog are available.

From the Toronto Star, published November 3, 2007 in its Toronto and Area Section