Bill 27, the Trespass Statutes (Protecting Law-Abiding Property Owners) Amendment Act, 2019 has received first reading in the legislature.
“The proposed changes in Bill 27 came directly from listening to rural residents whose lives have been affected by crime. As our next step in our plan to combat rural crime, this legislation will not only protect property owners and help law-abiding Albertans feel safe in their communities, but also will ensure trespassers face the proper consequences for their actions.”
If Bill 27 is passed, amendments to the Occupiers’ Liability Act would better protect law-abiding property owners from civil liability for injuries to trespassers where the owner has reasonable grounds to believe the trespasser is committing, or about to commit, a criminal offence. The amendments would be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018.
The proposed amendments do not change a property owner’s legal duty to child trespassers or trespassers who are not committing, or are about to commit, a criminal offence.
The proposed legislation would also strengthen deterrents to trespassing through amendments to trespass laws. This includes five-fold increases to maximum fines for trespassing, with fines of up to $10,000 for a first offence and up to $25,000 for subsequent offences, as well as possible prison time of up to six months.
Corporations that help or direct trespassers would face fines up to $200,000 — a first for Canada. In addition, the maximum amount a court may order for loss or damage to property would be raised from $25,000 to $100,000.
Bill 27 would also better protect farmers and ranchers from harassment and occupation by protesters, which are actions that risk introducing disease and threaten the welfare of animals. This includes amending the Petty Trespass Act to add explicit references to land used for crops, animal-rearing and beekeeping.
Once these changes came into force, Alberta would be the first province to have offences and penalties for creating a biosecurity hazard to animals.
It is important that property owners remember that they can still be held criminally responsible for their actions and should call law enforcement to deal with trespassers.
- The proposed increases in maximum fines for trespassing would be done through amendments to the Petty Trespass Act and the Trespass to Premises Act.
- The maximum fines for first and subsequent offences would increase from $2,000 and $5,000 to $10,000 and $25,000, respectively.
- The six-month prison term would be available for trespass when entry is prohibited with notice to that effect. It would also be available when a trespasser fails to leave land immediately after being directed to do so.