I am a white person from Toronto who had an encounter with a woman at Tudhope Park Beach in Orillia this weekend, which I think is in the public interest.
She explained she is trying to rally locals to support her cause and asked if I was a local resident. I admitted my Toronto residency. She said Orillia beaches will soon be closing because of people from Toronto – “not me necessarily” – who are crowding the beach and leaving behind garbage.
Next, she said “Pakistanis” have “run the beach for the last three years.” Naively, at first, I thought she meant that brown people manage the beach facilities. I asked what their race has to do with anything. She said it indicates they are “foreigners from Toronto.” I repeated that race is irrelevant and walked away.
Following some quick internet research, I discovered that the local government is not closing beaches, but will begin charging non-residents $50 for parking.
I understand the need to give priority to local residents -- we only ended up at Tudhope because the nearby provincial park was full and the kind staff there directed us to it.
For the record, the beach wasn't overly crowded, people were social distancing, and I didn't notice any garbage outside of admittedly overflowing garbage cans.
However, my encounter with this racist woman is troubling. How are bylaw enforcement officers going to go about deciding who to stop and ask if they are a non-resident? How is local government ensuring that racism and xenophobia are not influencing decisions about who can access and feel welcome at these beaches?
I am not a local resident but this affects all Canadians.