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Service members, veterans can fish for free

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The provincial government is recognizing those who committed themselves to defend our land, waters, and way of life with a token of appreciation—they now can fish in Ontario at no charge.

Amendments to Ontario's fishing regulations came into effect Jan. 1, enabling active Canadian Armed Forces members and veterans to fish in Ontario's waters without having to purchase a licence.

“Our government is working to show appreciation for those who put their lives on the line to protect what we cherish as a society,” said Natural Resources and Forestry minister John Yakabuski.

“Ontario is blessed with an abundance of lakes and rivers that provide recreation to many generations of people living here,” he noted.

“We want to help make it easier and more affordable for our heroes to enjoy those natural resources all year round.”

Canadian service members (retired and active) simply need to carry with them valid identification from the Department of National Defence or Veterans Affairs Canada while they're fishing.

A Canadian Forces identification card, a record of service card, or a Canadian Armed Forces veterans service card will act in place of an Ontario Outdoors Card and recreational fishing licence.

Those who already purchased a three-year fishing licence are eligible for a refund, on a pro rata basis.

Sharon McKeown, president of Ontario Command of the Royal Canadian Legion, welcomed the introduction of free fishing to its more than 100,000 members in almost 400 branches across the province.

“Free fishing for our veteran members provides incentive for them to enjoy the sport, when desire strikes, and hopefully the fish are biting,” said McKeown.

"On a quiet lake in the woods or a busy waterway, alone or with others, the challenge of the sport is making the catch; a sense of pride and peace of mind are found in the release.

“The enjoyment of comradeship, in the tall tales shared with laughter, is the reward,” McKeown added.

“We encourage our veterans to enjoy the freedom of fishing on Ontario's waters.”

Veterans and active service members can call the Natural Resources Information and Support Centre at 1-800-667-1940 for more information about licence-free fishing.

They also can visit Ontario.ca/fishing to learn more about the province's “Learn to Fish” programs, fishing rules, and how to plan a fishing trip.

Recreational fishing is a $2.2-billion industry in Ontario. The province has a great diversity of freshwater fish and is recognized worldwide for its recreational fishing.

The ministry works to keep fish populations—and the habitat they depend on—healthy and abundant for anglers.

Yakabuski said in addition to providing greater access to fishing, Ontario is standing up for its veterans, Canadian Armed Forces members and their families in other significant ways.

“We're working to establish a new hotline for military families moving to the province, we're ensuring Royal Canadian Legion halls in Ontario are exempt from paying property tax, and we're planning to build a memorial on the grounds of the Ontario legislature that honours our heroes of the war in Afghanistan,” he noted.

“Together, these efforts demonstrate that Ontario remembers their sacrifice, celebrates their courage, and is very grateful for their service.”

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