The following article has been included in the United Steelworkers “News at 6” (Ontario) publication. The author, Simon Guillet – President of OORA, fights for all Canadians to have equal access to public crown land and lakes.
Vast areas of Ontario crown land and lakes being reserved for paying tourists.
Imagine that you were an angler and hunter in Europe a few hundred years ago. Fish and game were plentiful and vast untouched areas of forests and lakes teemed with nature’s wonderful bounty. The only problem was the King and his entourage of lords and noblemen had reserved most of this pristine land for their private hunting and fishing grounds. Any poor peasant, who dared enter onto this hallowed ground to obtain a fish or fowl to feed his hungry family, or to simply enjoy nature’s beauty, was very severely punished. That served as an example to other peasants who may have the gall to interfere with the private outdoor pleasure of the King and his buddies.
Fast forward to modern-day Ontario; Medieval Kings and noblemen would feel right at home here. Thousands of square kilometers of pristine Crown land, and thousands of our best large lakes are, unless you want to pay for a fly-in and expensive lodge fees, virtually off-limits to the masses and reserved for wealthy tourists at private lodges. The Ministry of Natural Resources, (MNR), in cooperation with NOTO (Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters) have cooperated on public access restrictions that are so severe that there are only two ways for the ordinary citizen to enjoy all his/her public property, lakes and publicly subsidized forestry roads: if you can afford the expensive fly-in and lodge fees, or if you are able to walk many kilometers carrying all your gear on your back. It’s a tongue-in-cheek joke on us, it’s not funny, and it’s not fooling the public!
Cleverly misleading but not realistic.
The average hiker, canoeist, bird-watcher, angler or hunter is warned by posted signs that “trespassing” on such lands will result in charges and heavy fines if they use any type of vehicle, including a pedal bike, on any road posted with these signs by the MNR. Why? Because this “remoteness” on public lands leased from the MNR enables the private lodge owners to charge higher rates and rake in huge profits, since the paying guests (mostly non-Ontarians) won’t be bothered by the common masses as they hunt and fish in privacy and comfort. But the MNR and NOTO will tell you that those areas are, in their words, “accessible” to the public – sure they are…. if you want to walk many kilometers carrying your canoe, camping, fishing, food and other gear on your back. That’s the only way for the public to access these posted lands without getting charged and fined. That’s what they mean by “accessible” when referring to these posted lands and lakes; cleverly misleading, but not very realistic. The tourist outfitters have every right to make a profit from their investments….but not at the cost of the rights of ordinary citizens who cannot afford to fly-in and stay at these lodges. Let the outfitters continue catering to paying tourists, but those thousands of lakes and vast public lands also belong to us the taxpayers, and we want to use them without paying outfitters for the privilege.
The Ontario Outdoors Recreational Alliance (OntORA) is a ground roots organization formed by rank and file outdoors men and women concerned about the outdoors recreational legacy in store for our future generations. OntORA is very proud to be partnered with the United Steelworkers Union (USW) in Ontario, and we express our sincere appreciation to Director Wayne Fraser and the 75,000 Ontario Steelworkers for their support. OntORA is also in the process of affiliating with the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance/TRCP, which is partnered with 20 International Unions and backed by 5 million North American union members, as well as affiliating with other outdoors organizations.
OntORA’s mission is to promote the conservation of all natural habitats critical to maintaining a sound ecology, and healthy, sustainable fish and wildlife populations for present and future generations. OntORA understands that the basic requirements for almost every form of outdoors recreation depend on a healthy sustainable habitat. But of what good are healthy outdoors habitats if we and our children are not allowed to completely enjoy them?
Residents should have same rights as tourists.
Ontario residents are demanding lawful and equal public access to outdoor habitats, equal to the paying tourists for whom those areas are now reserved. In the Wawa area Magpie Forest (Dubreuilville), next door to the lucrative American market, fully 80% of the Crown lands have been reserved for the use of remote tourist outfitters alone, and in the Wawa area, 138 major lakes are reserved for remote tourism. And every year, more land and lakes are being turned into “signature sites” (read – private zones around remote lodges) for remote tourism.
Add your voice to OntORA and to the Steelworkers Union to fight for a richer and more accessible outdoors legacy for our children and their children. Help us lobby the Ontario government, and to also convince all Ontario political parties, to stop reserving our public lands and lakes solely for paying tourists and join us in mounting the necessary legal actions and court challenges that will someday confirm that we have the equal right of free public access. After all, this is Ontario and it’s OUR land and OUR lakes.
Just fill out the application form below and mail it to the address indicated:
Yes, I want to become a member of the Ontario Outdoors Recreational Alliance (USW partner) and add my support to the fight for lawful and equal public access to Ontario Crown land and lakes:
Name: (please print) ______________________________________
City & Postal Code: _______________________________________
E-mail address: ___________________________________________
Mail with a cheque or money order for $10.00 to:
Ontario Outdoors Recreational Alliance, 35 Amber St, Sault Ste. Marie ON, P6A 6N6