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New Legislation Impacts Rural Property Owners

Recent changes to three pieces of legislation have all now taken effect and modify statutes that deal with property, specifically The Petty Trespasses Act, The Occupiers’ Liability Act, and The Animal Diseases Act.

These modifications serve to enhance protections for property owners against offences such as petty trespass, reducing their liability to trespassers, and creating stronger protections for commercial animals and other livestock.

The Animal Diseases Amendment Act (Bill 62)

The first piece of legislation is Bill 62, which amends The Animal Diseases Act (CCSM c A85) in several ways. Firstly, the term “biosecurity zone” is added to section 1, which defines areas on a farm as being restricted access areas according to various federal and provincial regulations and meets certain criteria to qualify as such. It also updates the definition of “inspector” under the Act and repeals the requirement for notice of quarantine from the director at section 3.1(3).

The biggest changes appear to be in ss. 13.1 – 13.3. These are new provisions of the Act which prohibit the entry into biosecurity zones without the permission of the owner or occupier. It also creates prohibitions on interfering with biosecurity zones, animals found therein, vehicles transporting commercial animals, or commercial animals themselves without consent of the owner or the driver of the vehicle. The new provisions do allow exemptions for those providing emergency services or other classes of people permitted by the Act, other legislation, or by court order to access biosecurity zones or commercial animals as appropriate. Finally a provision is made for persons entering a biosecurity zone to take reasonable measures to ensure biosecurity unless an emergency exists that prevents such measures from being taken.

Also noteworthy is the addition of s. 17.1 which clarifies that any orders made under the Act must be in writing.

The regulations’ enabling clause at s. 19 now also provides for the power to establish via regulation the criteria for the newly defined “biosecurity zones” and regulations regarding the exemptions clause in s.13.3(1).

The amended Act has been in effect since the 8th of October 2021.

The Petty Trespasses Amendment and Occupiers’ Liability Amendment Act (Bill 63)

The other changes are made to The Petty Trespasses Act and The Occupiers’ Liability Act. Bill 63 amends these by strengthening the protection for property owners in trespassing scenarios and also limits the scope of the duty of care owed to trespassers or other persons present on property without permission by the property owner or occupier.

Part 1 – Amendment of The Petty Trespasses Act

The Petty Trespasses Act (CCSM c P50) is amended by bill 63 firstly by updating the title. The Trespass Act – as it is now known – has been updated in some rather significant ways.

Firstly, subsection 1(1) has been completely reworked and the core of what is considered a ‘trespassing offence’ is now quite different. Prior to this amendment, what was considered an offence under the Act was much more narrowly defined. What constituted an offence under the old Act was that entry to a property had to be unlawful and the property in question had to be completely enclosed, or that a person who entered a property that was not fully enclosed was requested to leave by the owner, tenant, or occupier. Whoever committed an offence was liable for a fine not exceeding $5,000.

Under the latest amendment, offences have been expanded to include any time a person enters onto lands or premises without permission. It is also more specific as to the various circumstances under which this can occur. These circumstances are enumerated at s. 1(1) (a). The Act also provides that an offence can be constituted in similar fashion to the old legislation on lands not covered by s. 1(1)(a) if a person has been asked to leave by the owner, tenant, or occupier and refuses to do so.

This update also makes exemptions for first responders and police as well as many utility workers. It goes further to provide that people who enter onto a property to provide voluntary emergency services or under the authority of other legislation or a court order are also exempted. In addition, the Act makes exemptions for public access to properties, such as a pathway to a door, a driveway, or lands that the public are normally admitted to without fee or charge, such as a store or parking lot.

S. 2, which used to allow for the arrest without warrant of persons found committing an offence by peace officers or the owners themselves, has been repealed.

Finally the reference is changed so that the Act is now found under CCSM c T156.

This version of the Act has been in effect since the 15th of October 2021.

Part 2 – The Occupiers’ Liability Act

Also of significant note is the update to The Occupiers’ Liability Act.

The major change of note with regards to this legislation is the limitation of the duty of care owed by occupiers of the land. The scope of the duty of care at s. 3(4) is now such that an occupier of premises only owes the duty to not create a danger with the deliberate intent of doing harm or damage, or to act with reckless disregard to the presence of the person or the person’s property (to persons or persons’ property enumerated under s. 3(4.1)). This new provision applies in situations where persons are present on property without permission and are riding or being towed by an off-road vehicle, when they are present for the purposes of committing a criminal act, or when they are present without permission on any of the following: agricultural lands, grazing or forestry lands, vacant land, forested areas, recreational trails, golf courses when not open for playing, private roads, and utility rights-of-way or corridors excluding structures.

This means that a general duty of care is not owed to people riding their ATVs through one’s land without permission, to people who are present without permission and there to commit a criminal act, and to people present on the lands described above if they are there without the permission of the occupier.

This amendment has been in force since the 15th of October 2021.

In summary In general terms, the two bills have the effect of creating stronger protections for property and animal owners and also recognize a framework for defining more secure areas with respect to commercial animals.

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