Private property signs go up along St. Clair River in Aamjiwnaang

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Private property signs have gone up along the St. Clair River in the Aamjiwnaang First Nation following concerns band members are being crowded out by anglers from outside the community.

The First Nation said in a news release it has permitted non-members of the community to fish off the shoreline and docks in the past, but that changed in June when its council voted to set up No Trespassing signs.

Increased use of the First Nation’s shoreline by non-members has lead to issues with littering, vehicles driving up and down the bank causing damage, as well as overcrowding on the docks, the news release said.

Along with posting signs that say, “Private property, Aamjiwnaang members only,” council will set up security patrols during peak fishing periods and ask the Ontario Ministry of Resources to monitor fishing licences along the shoreline.

“When the day comes when our members can’t go down and fish, that’s a concern,” said Aamjiwnaang Chief Joanne Rogers.

Rogers said the turning point for her was hearing from a band member who had taken his son to fish but the shore was so crowded the child didn’t want to stay.

Rogers added she heard that an elder from the First Nation wasn’t able to use the pier because of use by non-members.

It’s difficult for elders to stand and fish along other parts of the river front where there large rocks along the shore, she said.

Rogers said she has read comments on social media following council’s actions saying it is discrimination.

“It’s not discrimination,” she said.

“It’s taking our riverbank back for our children, and our elders and all our community to fish.”

Rogers said piers along the river were intended for members of the First Nation.

“We have to take care of our members first and take back what was ours, because it was being encroached upon.”

Rogers said council’s actions are aimed mainly at fishing by non-members along the river front.

“It is a good spot to fish, we all know that,” she said.

“For years and years we’ve permitted people to go down there.”

But, because use of the shoreline by non-members has increased members haven’t felt free to use it.

“I’ve heard community members saying they won’t even go down there,” Rogers said.

“It’s got nothing to do with discrimination, it’s got nothing to do with racial issues, nothing at all.

“We just want our community members to be able to go down there and fish, that’s it.”

Rogers said she knows the riverfront is also visited by others from outside of the community, including those who stop there to eat lunch.

“We don’t have a problem with that,” she said.

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