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A big mess

As a captain of the hunt for the Métis Nation of Ontario, Richard Sarrazin is used to ensuring his people respect the environment while they're out hunting and fishing in their traditional territories.
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Val Caron resident Richard Sarrazin was upset when he found numerous piles of garbage left on Whitson Lake recently. Photo by Marg Seregelyi.
As a captain of the hunt for the Métis Nation of Ontario, Richard Sarrazin is used to ensuring his people respect the environment while they're out hunting and fishing in their traditional territories.

Among other things, he teaches youth they should never leave garbage behind in the wilderness.

That's why he was so upset when he saw numerous piles of garbage left out on the ice during a recent visit to Whitson Lake.

Sarrazin said the debris was likely left on the Val Caron-area lake by the “little village” of ice fishers who occupy it during the winter.

“There's no reason for it, neither,” he said. “If you can carry it out there, you can take it out.”

The Val Caron resident said he's spotted blocks of wood which were used as bases for ice huts, garbage bags and other debris out on the ice.

Because he only noticed the garbage March 24, when the ice was already unsafe to walk on, there was no possibility of picking it up.

He said the garbage is going to end up in the water, where it will become a hazard to the boats, planes and swimmers which use the lake during the summer, not to mention wildlife like birds and fish.

Sarrazin said his wife's uncle even found a can of kerosene floating near the lake shore last year.

“Those cans of kerosene are going to bust eventually, then they'll be leaking all over the place, right into the lake,” he said.

Sarrazin said he's phoned the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) about the garbage, and officials said they'd investigate to find the people who left the debris behind.

People probably figure “it's no big deal” to leave garbage on the lake, a move which he said is “selfish.”

“There's no reason to leave tarps and garbage bags and whatever else is on the ice,” Sarrazin said.

Even if they need to remove a block of wood frozen into the ice, they should take 10 or 20 minutes to cut it out with a chainsaw, he said.

Steve Masse, an MNR intelligence and investigations office in the Sudbury area, said his office can lay tickets if they find out who dumped garbage on the lake.

The fine for such an offence is around $150, although people are sometimes brought to court for dumping a substantial amount of material, he said.

“Unfortunately, this happens quite often, that people leave their garbage around the huts,” he said.

“I don't want to taint 90 per cent of people, who are law-abiding and do everything well. But there are a few out there who give it all a bad name. It happens every year.”

He said he's not really sure why people would want to leave garbage on lakes.

“It's something I haven't quite grasped either, why people do this,” Masse said. “They want to enjoy the outdoors.”

Once in a while, somebody even leaves an ice hut out on the ice, and it sinks into the lake once the ice melts, he said, although this is rare.

Ice fishers are required to put ministry-issued numbers on their ice huts so they can be tracked down.

They're usually required to remove their ice huts from lakes by March 31, although the date was pushed up this year because of the unseasonably warm temperatures.

If anyone knows of someone responsible for leaving garbage on the ice, Masse encourages them to tell the MNR.

They can do so by phoning Sudbury Rainbow Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS, the MNR's own tip line at 1-877-TIPS-MNR, or the MNR's local office at 705-564-7823.

Posted by Heidi Ulrichsen

Heidi Ulrichsen

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