Possible Amendments to Manitoba's Petty Trespasses Act
Manitoba's Petty Trespasses Act (PTA) makes it a provincial offence to unlawfully enter or trespass on land, punishable by a fine of up to $5,000. However, the offence only applies if the land is wholly enclosed (i.e. completely fenced), or partially enclosed and the land owner/occupier confronts the trespasser and the trespasser refuses the land owner/occupier’s request to leave the property.
Saskatchewan and Alberta's Approach to Trespass Offences
Saskatchewan and Alberta take a different approach than Manitoba. Instead of only treating entry onto enclosed property, or partially enclosed property if the owner confronts the apparent trespasser, as a trespass offence, Saskatchewan and Alberta specify classes of land or land use where entry without the land owner/occupier’s permission is presumed to be a trespass offence unless the person entering the land has a reasonable lawful excuse for doing so.
The listed properties and uses include:
- yard sites
- land that is under cultivation
- land used for animal grazing
- land used for raising animals
- land used for raising fish and birds
- land used for beekeeping
However, the legislation specifically lists categories of entrants to property who can enter the property without the permission of the land owner/occupier, such as:
- peace officers
- first responders and emergency personnel
- authorized public utility meter readers and service personnel
- authorized gas or electrical inspectors
- individuals engaged in lawful hunting, fishing or trapping activities
Absolutely barring all persons from entering land without consent is not feasible given Indigenous rights and First Nations’ treaty rights, and the need to allow access to the property for certain other lawful purposes, such as law enforcement, first responders, public utility maintenance, etc.
Provincial law cannot override the legal rights of First Nations and other Indigenous people to exercise Indigenous hunting, trapping or fishing rights on lands where Indigenous and treaty rights can normally be exercised, which includes land not put to an incompatible use. Saskatchewan’s Trespass to Property Act (TPA) also contains an exemption provision (sec. 17) to acknowledge the provisions of Saskatchewan’s TPA do not apply to certain specified groups, which include “individuals engaged in lawful hunting, fishing and trapping activities.”