The following letter was sent to newspaper editors throughout Ontario for publication.
August 27, 2012
As a long-time member of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH), I have many good things to say about them, but I also have some scathing criticism of their shameful compromised position on public access to our lakes and forests.
Over the years, the OFAH has done commendable work in conservation, invasive species, habitat restoration, education, political involvement and fighting for certain rights of hunters and anglers. But public access is another story.
Under the Ontario Public Lands Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, citizens should have equal public access to our public lands without fear of discrimination, intimidation or impediments. If any area is closed for bona fide reasons, it should be closed to everyone, including tourists.
The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), in concert with Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters (NOTO) have virtually reserved about 2,000 of our best lakes and thousands of square kilometres of pristine public lands for the exclusive use of paying tourists – and locals are kept out “to promote remote tourism values.” For the uninitiated, that means “we can charge much more $$ if there are no locals interfering with our guests having the lakes and forests all to themselves.”
Moreover, MNR budget cuts have prompted the closure of thousands of Kms of bush roads where berms and the removal of culverts & bridges prevent families from enjoying four-wheeling, berry-picking, exploring or sight-seeing. Isn’t that one of the reasons why we live in the north!
Of course, The MNR & NOTO like to say, tongue in cheek, that locals can always WALK in to these 2,000 lakes, carrying their gear, food, camping equipment and boats on their backs, anywhere from 3 to 40 Kms. They know that’s impossible.
When a large organization like OFAH officially voices its opinion, it should also follow through with relevant action. Not so. According to OFAH’s Matt DeMille in a letter to the MNR last September, he states that “Crown lands….have witnessed the erosion of accessibility to the Crown forest road network” and “The public discontent resulting from diminishing accessibility is further intensified by the lack of any assurance that public … values will be protected……… (and) in contrast, remote tourism operators receive protection under the (law)……..”
That sounds like they are against MNR restrictions to public access, but no. While the OFAH decries some restrictions and suggests some minor modifications, the same OFAH letter also agrees that there should be at least a one Km buffer (No Trespassing) zone (instead of the present 3 Kms) around all these remote tourism lakes – still effectively keeping locals from accessing “tourism” lakes. Further, the OFAH letter makes their position abundantly clear; that the artificial “remoteness” of these tourist lodges should continue to be protected from intrusion by the public.
It must be noted that the Ontario Out Of Doors (OOD) magazine, owned and published by the OFAH, makes considerable revenue from remote tourism outfitters’ advertisement, OOD editors travel to many of these remote lodges to publicize and promote the great fishing, hunting and accommodations, and certainly a portion of the OFAH membership comes from remote tourism. Is there a conflict of interest…..you decide!
A few years ago, hundreds of OFAH members and outdoors people from across the province joined together to give a voice to their disappointment with the OFAH’s compromised position on public access to our natural heritage. We formed OntORA, the Ontario Outdoors Recreational Alliance, Inc. We believe that the remote tourism industry is entitled to make a good profit, but that they must also share our God-given lakes and forests with the public, who foot the bill and deserve the same consideration as out-of-province tourists. Our website is www.ontora.ca.
We deserve what we tolerate, and it’s time to stop tolerating this discrimination.
Mike Boudreau, President, firstname.lastname@example.org
Hawk Junction, ON.
Comments on this entry are closed.
I personally have given up on O.F.A.H. and have stopped my membership with this Org. After i saw that they received $ 1.790.686 from the Fed’s & Provincial gov’t, how do you bite the hand that feed’s you. They sugar coat there Org. pretty good in my opinion.
I agree totally swampdogger, I would like to send my congrats to Mike Boudreau and all of the Ontora executives for having the courage to write this letter it should cause quite a stir. I am working on letters as we speak to be distributed to OFAH’s sponsors how this feds silence is actually hurting the sales of their products.The cause and effect so to speak of road closures, access restrictions to 2000 lakes,rivers and streams I am sure Shimano Canada, Yamaha Canada, Winchester Olin corp will not be too impressed of lost revenues due to their sponsorees policy of sitting on the white picket fence on this subject. Once again Thank You Ontora.
Which newspapers received the “Letter to the Editor” and when? I have not seen any response at all on hunting web sites,what gives.?
I am a person with a disabilityand I am planning a fishing trip this Fall. I know that the access to the lake that I am going to is close. That will not stop me from enjoying a great
fishing trip. If the fish cop should stop me I will see them in court. May be we should plan
a fishing trip and have as many members as possible turn up and let the fish cop try to do their job and we could challenge them in court.
Just my thoughts
Jeff Martin Timmins On Canada
Proud Member of ONTORA
I agree with Jeff, If we sit back and mot challenge this shat, then we will have to live with it!!!
Wow, now i got certain people Quoting me and posting on OOOD, what a bunch of losers.
Today I received an envelope with the notation of “Ontario Outdoor Card Centre” on it. I thought that it was the form for my new Outdoor card. But to my dismay, it was advertisement to join OFAH the Deer Hunter addition, that was the only thing in the envelope. Since when does OUR province of Ontario provide envelopes for Private Enterprise or Private Clubs or Private anything. Is this not a conflict of interest on behalf of our government to provide any type of support to this venue. They want to block our access to OUR LAKES but they are using OUR MONEY to provide envelopes to OFAH. Are they providing the postage as well? Dalton and his cronies at work
Great article! Thanks for writing about this. I find that we tend to sit and let things happen way too often while the MNR gets away with murder. This biased and deceitful practice concerning our lakes is consistent with MNR’s behavior. They expect us to keep silent while they give outside tourists the preferred treatment on our lakes; just as they expect us to sit still while they’re shutting down 10 of our parks in order to provide better services to the southern parks. Once again, the MNR takes action against Northern Ontario in order to provide services to “preferred customer”. Changing our parks into non-operational parks will jeopardize the economy of an entire region. This kind of practices coming from a governmental department is unacceptable. Public services and outdoor access rights should not be available exclusively to those who can pay. If that’s the route that the Ontario government is taking, should we expect our hospitals to close so that they can open plastic surgery clinics in for high paying outsiders?
Crown lands belong to the people of Canada: are politician carving up the country for selfish reasons?. It appears that our elected politicians are beginning to act like third world politician: destroying democracy and our quality of life. Do they also have vested interests via third party? I can appreciate that tourism in Ontario needs to be developed, however, it should be through a consultative, open, and transparent process. How does anyone obtain exclusive use to Crown Land? Was there an open bidding process conducted? Did the contract contain a legal obligation whereby the Provincial Government was compelled to close 10 Provincial Parks in Northern Ontario, historically opened to the general public for the last 50? I’d like to know the value of this contract, if there is one, and who is benefiting from it. The people of Northern Ontario are definitely not on the receiving end. We want our Provincial Parks back.
Save our parks!