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Debate erupts over what's best for Lake Nipissing after contentious ice hut ad

IceHutRentals.ca feeling the heat after posting Kijiji ad that said status card holders are not welcome

Olivia Stefanovich - CBC News

January 05, 2017

Lake Nipissing's fishing population has been declining over the past few years, according to the province's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. (MNR)

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Racial tension is rising over fishing practices on Lake Nipissing because of a controversial Kijiji ad. We spoke about the issue with Samantha Simpkin, owner of Fish Bay Marina on Lake Nipissing, and Scott McLoed, the Chief of Nipissing First Nation.  11:36
Long-standing racial tension about fishing practices on Lake Nipissing in northern Ontario is coming to the surface after a controversial ice hut ad recently appeared on Kijiji

In its post, the company IceHutRentals.ca said status card holders are not welcome.

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The statement sparked outrage and calls to have the business shut down.

"The fact of the matter is there are people out there that do support a lot of what he's [Ice Hut Rental owner] saying," Nipissing First Nation Chief Scott McLeod said.

"That's kind of the ugly truth."

'We want the best for Lake Nipissing'

Ice Hut Rental's CEO Marc David Hyndman posted an apology on his company's Facebook page Tuesday.

"Everyone is welcome at our huts ... as long as Ontario 2017 fishing regulations are followed," he wrote.

"This is to ensure our fishing location is not abused and that every guest in our huts is on a level playing field."

The owners of IceHutRentals.ca uploaded an advertisement on Kijiji that said status card users are not welcome.

Part of the reason there is frustration in the Lake Nipissing area is because Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are governed by different fishing regulations, according to Fish Bay Marina owner Samantha Simpkin. 

"We all want the best for Lake Nipissing," Simpkin said.

"I think he [Hyndman] was just misguided in the statements that he made."

CBC News has contacted Ice Hut Rentals, but has not received a response. 

Stopping gillnetting would be a 'positive step,' marina owner says

Indigenous people are allowed to use large mesh-like traps called gillnets, while most others are not. 

"I don't know what will relieve the tension that seems to be existing in the community," Simpkin said.

"Certainly stopping the gillnetting and having the wildlife population rebound is going to be a positive step."

An apology was posted to Ice Hut Rentals Facebook page Tuesday.

The walleye population in Lake Nipissing is in serious decline, according to Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry. 

There has been finger pointing in the region over who is to blame. Indigenous people have been accused of hurting the economy since they are allowed to use gillnets, according to McLeod. 

'We have to be able to work with each other'

"The economy does not belong to the non-Native society," McLeod said.

"It's there for everybody to make use of, and we have to be able to work with each other to ensure that the economy is beneficial for both sides of the fence."

Some people have suggested placing a fishing ban on the lake for a few years to allow the species to rehabilitate, but Simpkin does not want to see that happen. 

"The fish that come out of the lake by recreational fisherman is a very, very small portion of what's harvested," Simpkin said.

"There's a lot of people who rely on the tourist industry here. A lot of people come to fish on Lake Nipissing, and closing fishing entirely for two years is going to put tons of people out of business."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Olivia Stefanovich

Olivia Stefanovich is a senior reporter for CBC Saskatchewan. She covers news from across the province for radio, TV and online. Connect with her on Twitter @CBCOlivia. Send story ideas to olivia.stefanovich@cbc.ca.

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