Border water issue prompts emergency meeting

The North Western Ontario Tourism Association (NWOTA) held an “emergency meeting” Monday in Emo to discuss the border water issue with the States.
The U.S. opposes Ontario’s decision to pass a law which restricts non-resident anglers from retaining any walleye or sauger caught on the Ontario side of Rainy River and Lake of the Woods unless they spend at least one night at a Canadian resort.
The regulations do not apply to other species such as northern pike, muskie, bass, and crappie.
Tom Pearson, who attended the meeting, said it was a “big issue that needed to be discussed” and felt the Americans were simply “grasping at straws.”
But while he didn’t feel their argument carried much weight, he was concerned Americans would try to bully their way into Canadian waters.
“Why are we responsible because they sold all of their land,” Pearson argued Monday night. “All Ontario wants to do is protect their stocks–this is not discriminatory.
“[The U.S.] has to realize this is a different country and we have to protect our lakes for our kids,” he charged. “They’ve sold everything . . . we don’t want them to come here.”
Pearson felt because this area only represented “about three percent” of the total population of Ontario that our voice would not be heard. That’s why it’s important this also becomes a national issue on our side of the border, he stressed.
But NWOTA president Jerri McDougall admitted she was unsure as to who the “key players” are in this dispute, and whether or not the federal government is prepared to take a stance against the U.S.
And she said a lot of questions remain unanswered.
“Right now, we trying to figure out what, if anything, we can do,” she remarked, adding she was unsure when their next meeting would be scheduled.
The U.S. Trade Representative office has opened up an investigation into complaints from resort owners and anglers on their side, which have complained vehemently against the law.
Minnesota is arguing the restrictions violate long-standing international treaties and trade agreements.
Pearson said it appears this soon will become a federal issue, and many figure Minnesota will try to create a U.S./Canada committee to find a solution under the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Minnesota also has the option to pursue a free trade challenge before a NAFTA trade panel or the world trade court in Geneva.
Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) already has hinted if negotiations can’t resolve the border fishing dispute within a year’s time, the U.S. may impose tariffs on Canadian products.
But Donna Hanson, who also attended Monday’s meeting, felt Canada has the right to manage its own resources in any way it chooses, and was cautious as to what the U.S. may do to disrupt that right.
“We don’t want to be sold down the pipe. We don’t want to be sacrificed,” said Hanson. “We’ve prepared a course of action to get things moving but right now it would be premature to disclose it.”