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March 14, 2012 - Knowledge is power; action is wisdom.

That’s how I started my February FlashPoint column. Essentially, I am suggesting that it is not sufficient in this life to simply have knowledge; wisdom is only evident when critical knowledge is put into action.

March 14, 2012
By Peter Sells

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That was not the case for 26 intrepid ice fishermen who found themselves stranded on a Lake Simcoe ice floe this past week. I will admit that I am not an aficionado of the practice, and I don’t mean to disparage anyone by association, but I don’t believe that there is an aptitude test required to qualify oneself for ice fishing. That being said, if fellowship, fresh air and free fish are enough to get you out on the ice – have a nice day. But I am not going to pull any punches here: exactly how stupid do you have to be to venture onto Southern Ontario lake ice this late in the season, against the advice of the local authorities, after one of the mildest winters in living memory?

As was reported in the Barrie Examiner, the rescue operation to remove the fishermen from the ice floe, which had broken loose due to high winds, involved 20 firefighters, 15 police officers, 12 Simcoe County paramedics, and a helicopter. The good news is that despite Darwin’s theories, all 26 souls were saved and will continue with their dubious contributions to the human genome. The even better news is that although no charges have been laid at present, there remains the possibility that the rescued individuals may be on the hook for fines in the range of $800 per head.  Well, per person anyway. 

We have individual rights in this country, of course, including the right to take personally acceptable risks to life and limb in the name of recreation, such as are inherent in luge, ski racing, snowmobiling or ice fishing. However, those rights must be balanced by the potential cost to others and to society as a whole. Obviously, the adventurous anglers were blissfully unaware of the danger they posed to their 47 rescuers. 

We don’t have to look very far to find an illustration of the dangers inherent in ice/water rescue. Perhaps, in lieu of a fine, a more appropriate penalty would be for all 26 of the ice floe surfers to be made to attend each day of the upcoming Ministry of Labour trial of the trainer who conducted the Jan. 30, 2010, ice-rescue training exercise on the shoreline of the St. Clair River, which resulted in the death of Point Edward, Ont., firefighter Gary Kendall.  Maybe some immersion in the cold reality of the responders’ world would give them an appreciation of the level of their folly.  A few days of first-person accounts and victim impact statements might do them a lifetime of good.

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Armed with that new knowledge, maybe their actions will be more wise in the future.


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