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Friday, September 28, 2007

Hate crime label sought in Simcoe attacks

Hate crime label sought in cottage country attacks

Advocates for the Chinese community want police to classify a string of assaults on Asian-Canadians at Ontario's Lake Simcoe as hate crimes.

In four separate incidents over the last few months, fishermen were pushed into the lake on the southern shore, near Georgina Township.

One man was left in critical condition after a car chase following one of the incidents, CTV News learned.

Fishing gear was reportedly stolen or damaged during some of the assaults.

Cynthia Pay, a member of the Chinese Canadian National Council, believes victims were targeted because of their nationality.

"The entire (Chinese) community feels its impact. Our sense of belonging and security is reduced and damaged," she said at a press conference at Toronto City Hall on Thursday.

Pay also slammed York Regional Police for not labelling the incidents as hate crimes.

Staff Sgt. Ricky Veerappan, however, said the force is taking the assaults very seriously.

"These kinds of crimes not only hurt the community that's been targeted, but really, it affects many individuals within our community," Veerappan said at the news conference.

Police have laid charges against several people in connection with the incidents.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Asian-Canadians report being shoved into water while fishing

Asian-Canadians report being shoved into water while fishing near Sutton; police deny racial link

With a bucket of minnows, a few flashlights and fishing poles in tow, Ray Lam and his friends make the hour-and-a-bit drive from Thornhill to Lake Simcoe once or twice a week. They arrive just before midnight and stay for a few hours, casting lines in darkness along one of the docks outside the town of Sutton.

But at all times they keep a careful eye on the long weeds behind them.

Since April there have been three cases of assault, mischief and theft against the mostly Asian-Canadian fishermen in the area.

Another incident, the most recent, has left a 23-year-old fisherman in a coma, with damage to his ribs, lungs, limbs and brain. Shayne Berwick, of Toronto, who was thrown from a car during a pursuit, was initially given a 10 per cent chance of survival, say his parents Colin and Terry Berwick.

"You can't imagine, you never think you'll be burying a child," Terry wept at her east-end Toronto home. "And over what?"

Local youth call it "nippertipping."

It consists of locals driving around in the middle of the night, looking for cars parked near piers, docks and bridges. They then creep up behind fishermen and shove them into the lake. Sometimes the fishermen's gear is tossed in or damaged.

"Nip" is a derogatory word for Japanese, apparently used in this context for anyone of Asian descent. "Tipping" refers to a rural prank known as cow tipping. Some townspeople say it's been happening for decades, occasionally triggering gossip but nothing more.

That was until two Sundays ago. Late that night, a few local 20-somethings approached a group of Toronto friends fishing near Mossington Bridge.

There are two versions of what happened next. One is that the 20-somethings pushed one of the fishermen – of Asian descent – into the water. A white fisherman was shoved in as well.

The other is that the fishermen started the fight, leaving one of the town kids bloodied and bruised.

Whichever happened, police say a bigger confrontation then broke out between the two groups.

Four of the fishermen sped from the scene in their Honda Civic. One of the town kids got in his truck and pursued the Civic, police say. The pursuit continued for two kilometres along narrow, winding lakefront roads, until the truck driver drove the car off the road, according to police. Two of the fishermen, including Berwick, were thrown from the car and taken to hospital.

The truck driver was jailed. Trevor Middleton of Sutton was released on $20,000 bail last Thursday, charged with two counts of criminal negligence causing bodily harm.

Since then, talk of the assaults is running through the town of 5,000. Three incidents reported this year involved people of Asian descent:

On April 27, a 13-year-old white boy was thrown in the lake late at night. He had been near a 72-year-old Asian-Canadian, whose fishing gear was damaged. It's not known whether they knew each other.

On July 22, a middle-aged couple of Asian descent suffered a minor assault; their car windshield was smashed and a baseball cap stolen.

On Aug. 6, an adult male was pushed in the water. No one was hurt. Scott MacEachern, 19, of Sutton, was charged after the Asian-Canadian held him at the scene.

Police say the assaults aren't racially motivated. "There's been three occurrences in 2007 where fishermen, both male and female of many ethnic backgrounds, have been assaulted by persons while they're fishing here," said Det. Sgt. Bill Sadler of York police. "In some cases (they've been) pushed in the water. But they're not specifically directed at Asians."

Some locals "don't like foreigners" said one man, who did not want his name used. "It's been happening since I was young – nippertipping," said the 20-year-old. "Everybody talks about doing it – `Oh, I went down to the docks the other night and roughed up some Asians.' I guess they think it sounds cool. But it doesn't happen often at all."

Under the heading "Warning: Be careful if you fish at Lake Simcoe" written in Chinese characters at, fishermen have posted warnings. "On Aug. 18, I was fishing by myself and I got dumped into the water. I lost my cellphone and other belongings ... I reported to the police and a Chinese officer told me that it wasn't really criminal."

Last Friday, Lam and three friends decided to set up at the pier beneath Mossington Bridge.

"I've never had problems myself, but my friend Jack did," said Lam, a student at Centennial College. "One time, maybe they were drunk, they came up and threw out all my friend's stuff," he said.

Many of the individuals fishing nearby had similar stories – bottles being thrown, verbal taunting, gear damaged. "We just want to fish," said one Scarborough resident.

Shayne Berwick remains in hospital. It's unknown how long his brain was without oxygen, so even if he does open his eyes again, no one knows if he'll wake up the same funny but shy young man.

Colin Berwick can't believe what happened. "That's the '60s redneck mentality from the Deep South. This is Canada in 2007. Jesus," said the father of three.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Barrie and Innisfil talk

Provincial development facilitator Alan Wells brought Barrie and Innisfil back to the negotiating table Monday.

Sources said boundary talks between the municipalities broke down April 30, after Barrie Mayor Dave Aspden suggested a side deal to service land owned by a developer who supported his campaign. That same night, Barrie council turned to the OPP for help, to ascertain whether a trip Aspden took to China with the developer played a part.

The investigation continues.

As word about the trip surfaced in mid-April, city council removed Aspden from its negotiating committee and replaced him with Development Services Committee chairperson Coun. Mike Ramsay.

Monday’s meeting was the first time local politicians met to discuss how to accommodate an estimated 76,900 people in the “Barrie-south Simcoe” area as identified in the Intergovernmental Action Plan (IGAP) a year ago.

Technical teams – involving engineers, planners and chief administrative officers – have continued to meet during the summer and last met Sept. 13. They are examining Lake Simcoe’s ability to absorb phosphorous effluent and Barrie’s sewage treatment capacity.

Simcoe County has had observer status during the talks, as the county leads a region-wide growth management process, which will include forums with developers and the public in late October.

Last spring, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister John Gerretsen and Minister of Public Infrastructure Renewal David Caplan told county politicians – including those from the separated cities of Barrie and Orillia – to create a local plan for growth or forego millions in infrastructure funding to upgrade roads, bridges, water mains and sewage treatment facilities.

Wells would not comment on the talks, although a joint statement from his office was being prepared and approved by Barrie and Innisfil at press time.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Lake Simcoe perch poachers have been fined $4,000

A pair of Lake Simcoe perch poachers have been fined $4,000.
Minh Hung Nguyen, 33, and Minh Thanh Tran, 77, were found guilty and both fined $2,000 for catching and keeping more than the legal limit of yellow perch for Lake Simcoe.
The case was tried in Newmarket on Sept. 4. The court heard that on Aug. 19, 2006, Aurora District conservation officers, a deputy conservation officer, and an officer from the York Regional Police Marine Unit observed two men angling from a boat on Lake Simcoe.
The two men had several buckets of perch in the boat. When the officers counted the fish, they found the men had 130 yellow perch over the limit.
To report a natural resources violation, call 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667) toll-free any time or contact your local ministry office during regular business hours. You can also call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Innisfil fears Barrie land grab

Innisfil residents Ron and Nancy Flood make no bones about their dislike for their neighbour to the north, the City of Barrie, which happens to be one of Ontario's fastest growing municipalities.

To the Floods, whose family has lived on the scenic shore of Lake Simcoe for 70 years, Barrie is big, badly planned and rapacious. The city's population has more than doubled, to 128,000, in just 15 years.

Their concern now is that Barrie is seeking to annex yet another chunk of their town (pop. 31,000) – and potentially the most lucrative part, the "assessment-rich" commercial-industrial area planned along both sides of Highway 400 at Innisfil Beach Rd.

Innisfil and Barrie have a long history of animosity and suspicion. After a series of voluntary annexations, Innisfil decided enough was enough when Barrie gobbled another 3,561 developable hectares.

That battle, in the late 1970s, went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. A truce emerged through the Barrie-Innisfil Annexation Act of 1981, which said Barrie wouldn't pursue future annexations until 2012 unless Innisfil agreed. But with Barrie on the prowl again for land, this round between the two neighbours is shaping up as yet another David vs. Goliath match.

When boundary discussions that have gone on quietly for 1 1/2 years broke off earlier this year, Innisfil Mayor Brian Jackson didn't mince words. Barrie, he said, was acting like a bully.

The Floods fear that if Barrie succeeds in grabbing more of mostly rural Innisfil, it would seriously hurt their town and result in even higher property taxes than the $6,800 they're already paying on their modest beachfront home north of Alcona, part of a prime lakefront neighbourhood that has seen the arrival of monster year-round cottages.

If Barrie snaps up Innisfil's employment lands, "we will just be dust in the wind," says Ron Flood, a retired Canadian Forces soldier.

"Without that tax base, I don't know what we would do," said Flood. "We would be going broke ... I don't need any more tax (hikes), I can assure you."

In past years, Barrie has had its way in annexing parts of neighbouring municipalities – including the former Innisfil property where a Molson plant sits – usually for a price.

Part of the subtext to the current rivalry is the Barrie Agricultural Society's recent decision to reject slot machines on its grounds, which prompted the Barrie Raceway to move to Innisfil. The reborn Georgian Downs, which pumps about $4 million a year into Innisfil's coffers, has been open since late 2001.

Now, nearly built out and hungry for more industrial and commercial land, Barrie covets another chunk of Innisfil but tiny Innisfil is fighting back.

About two years ago, Innisfil drew up ambitious plans to develop more than 800 hectares around the racetrack – mostly owned by developer Fred DeGasperis – in hopes of creating jobs for residents and much-needed tax revenue. Those plans are central to the municipality's dream of growing to 105,000 people over the next 25 years.

It wanted to capitalize on the province's designation of Simcoe County, where Innisfil sits, as an area for growth, in what's known as the Inter-Governmental Action Plan – and the fact that development is leapfrogging past the Greenbelt north to Barrie.

Big developers such as DeGasperis and Mario Cortellucci and others have bought up huge swaths of land in Innisfil, which along with its southern neighbour Bradford West Gwillimbury is poised for growth.

They include not just the industrial lands Innisfil wants to develop near Highway 400 and Innisfil Beach Rd., but a large chunk of land bordering either side of the highway to the south and the so-called moratorium lands (about 2,500 hectares) in northern Innisfil which were the subject of the Barrie-Innisfil Annexation Act.

These are the farm fields that Barrie promised not to pursue until 2012 – lands that promise to pour untold wealth into municipal coffers in the future.

But when Innisfil went to Barrie in 2005 asking to link its water and sewer pipes to those that service Barrie's industrial south, it got a curt "No" – despite the town's willingness to cover the $80 million cost through development charges, potentially from the developers.

The alternative, building separate lines east toward Lake Simcoe, could cost three times as much.

The refusal prompted the talks between the two municipalities, which went on with the help of a provincial facilitator until Barrie walked away from a yet-undisclosed offer by Innisfil this spring.

Neither side will discuss details, but Jackson was clearly miffed by the refusal of what he said was a fair offer. Soon after, he released results of a poll showing that Barrie residents were not happy with the quality of life brought on by rapid growth, gridlock and plans to boost Barrie's population.

The release, Jackson bluntly told the Star, "says in a nice way, `Barrie, we don't want you to annex our town. Stop being a bully. Come to the table and negotiate.'

"And by the way, your city residents don't really agree with your position. They don't want to see the city grow for various reasons (including) gridlock, quality of life, these sorts of things."

Rather than expand into Innisfil, Jackson wants Barrie to look at options such as intensification, growing upwards or redeveloping existing areas.

Barrie's lead negotiator, councillor Mike Ramsay, says talks broke off because Barrie learned of a push by the local conservation authority to lower the amount of phosphorus entering Lake Simcoe, a threat to the coldwater fishery. Septic tanks and sewage are among the sources of phosphorus contamination.

Ramsay said Barrie's negotiating team decided to "suspend" talks while allowing their technical staff and that of Innisfil and Simcoe County to come up with models as to how much growth Lake Simcoe could bear and how much sewage they could handle.

Possible limitations on how much industrial and commercial development can safely be linked with Lake Simcoe could well determine the outcome of negotiations between Barrie and Innisfil – if and when they resume. Ramsay says Barrie's self-interest in expanding into Innisfil was a central part of the negotiations. The city needs about 1,000 more hectares of employment land to meet future economic needs, he said.

"Barrie needs to grow, Innisfil wants to grow and economically develop," and the only way for Barrie to grow is on similar lands to the south, Ramsay said. "So when you have two communities that are eyeing the same lands, you have to negotiate as amicably as possible."

Asked how residents might feel about losing potential jobs and revenue yet again near the Highway 400 corridor, Innisfil's chief administrative officer, Lawrence Allison, carefully chooses his words:

"There is a historical perception in the community that Innisfil has continued to lose lands and Barrie has continued to grow in a somewhat unabated and uncontrolled fashion," he says.

Allison said that for Innisfil, the stakes are high and "council's number one priority is servicing employment lands along that corridor."

Asked how much assessment revenue was potentially at stake, he would only say "a lot."

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Long weekend Simcoe/Couchiching mishaps

Long weekend Simcoe/Couchiching mishaps

The OPP Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching Marine Units were kept busy this long weekend with numerous calls of boaters in distress and disabled on both lakes.

The OPP Lake Simcoe Marine Unit responded to a 19 and a half foot sailboat that had capsized in Kempenfelt Bay just off of Centennial Beach in Barrie.

An adult male from Barrie and an adult female from Keswick were rescued from the water of Kempenfelt Bay and brought safely to shore.

The vessel was towed to shore by the OPP Marine Unit and Currie Towing Services removed it from the water. The adult male suffered minor injuries to his leg, but did not need medical treatment.

In another incident, OPP marine Units along with Ramara and Orillia Fire Departments responded to a vessel fire on Lake Couchiching.

The four occupants of the vessel were safely removed from the boat and the fire was extinguished and the vessel towed to shore.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Thoughts of turning dreams into reality

I am sure many people will agree with me that it is relaxing to take in the beauty of trees and water and wide-open space. When driving along Atherley Road, or when enjoying a cup of coffee or eating breakfast at the Bayside restaurant which has windows facing the lake, I enjoy seeing the wide stretch of open water of Lake Simcoe. How long will we be able to see this? I cannot help but see images of obstructive construction on the land presently for sale. Fear creeps up on me that the approximately 500 feet of shoreline and the view beyond will be lost forever, that the boat launch opportunity will be lost, and that Orillia will lose this special, for the city, sight.

It would be so nice if we could find a way to envelop this strip of land into the Tudhope Park property. I wonder whether someone might have thought of some enticing possibilities for making this strip beside Collins Drive parking lot accessible for the occasional person who might like to stop, step out of the car and walk toward the water of the wide- stretching lake and enjoy the scenery. The person may praise the city for their foresight in preserving the piece of land for the use and pleasure of future generations. I saw possibilities. Thousands of Casino Rama (customers) and many others pass along this busy street, and this part of our city does not have a single landmark by which they will remember Orillia. We could erect a singular, small, inviting-looking, eye-catching lighthouse-like structure, without obstructing the view. Something that stays in the memory. That's the thought that came to me one day when driving down Atherley Road. I remembered seeing wayside chapels in the past. In my mind, I envisioned this community building a small-scale meditation centre. Many people see meditation as a form of recreation. Would it not be nice to see parks and recreation Orillia team up with other organizations or groups and take the initiative to develop a special-purpose recreation-meditation space? Maybe somebody would like to donate the building as a memorial. Day dreams are nice at all times, but doing something about what one was dreaming is something else.

Courtessy of Mike Tulp