Trespassers won’t be forgiven
Spring is the time when many people’s thoughts turn to foraging for wild edibles, such as wild garlic and mushrooms.
But lovers of ramps and morels must also remember that laws must be respected when they venture out on a picking expedition.
Anyone entering private property without legal authority or the permission of the occupier may be found guilty of an offence under the Trespass to Property Act. The burden of proof that permission was given is on the accused.
The Trespass to Property Act, and its companion, the Occupiers’ Liability Act, were enacted in 1980 to protect the rights of occupiers, while allowing them to control activities on their property. “Occupier” means anyone in legal possession of land; legal owner or tenant. Places subject to the Act include land, water and buildings, including portable structures.
Occupiers can use signs to show which activities they allow. When choosing signs, be sure that the sign reflects your true wishes. Signs prohibiting one activity only refer to that activity; not to any other unnamed activities. For example, a “No Fishing” sign only prohibits fishing; not hiking or hunting. To prohibit all activities use a “No Trespassing” sign. The use of signs does not affect your right to give individuals permis- sion to use your land.
Signs used to prohibit or restrict entry to property must conform to the Act. They can show your wishes through symbols or words. All signs must be clearly visible in daylight and placed at every normal point of access to the property.
While signs may be used to show when entry is prohibited, entry to some rural property is prohibited even without the use of signs. Entry is prohibited without signs to a “garden, field or other land under cultivation, including a lawn, orchard or vineyard” (fields are “under cultivation” whether seeded or not; snow covered fields are “under cultivation” if seeded), land enclosed in any way that shows the occupier’s intention to keep people off or animals on the premises, any property where trees have been planted but have not grown to an average height of six and a half feet, or woodlots on land used primarily for agricultural purposes.
If you come across trespassers, politely request that they leave. The Act gives occupiers, in addition to the police, the power to arrest trespassers. However, if the trespasser is an armed hunter, or has refused to leave, call the police. If the trespasser damages your property, the courts can award you up to $1,000 compensation for damages caused by the trespasser. To recover damages over $1,000 you must file a lawsuit against the trespasser in court.
Land surveyors, utility meter readers, public health inspectors and conservation authority staff are exempt from the restrictions. If in doubt, ask the person for their identification and authority to enter your property.
WARNED: Foraging for wild edibles has always been popular. However, pickers are reminded that the rights of private property owners must also be respected.