Currently, adverse possession allows a person who has occupied another person’s land for 10 years to claim ownership of that land. Claims can only be made against private landowners. Public land, municipal land and irrigation districts are exempted.

The Property Rights Statutes Amendment Act, 2022, would abolish the ability of squatters to make a claim and give private landowners the same protections once only reserved for government. The proposed bill amends the Law of Property Act, the Land Titles Act and the Limitations Act.

For more than a decade, advocates have been asking governments to abolish adverse possession. In 2021, Alberta’s government formed the Select Special Committee on Property Rights to conduct research and hear from Albertans on this topic. The committee tabled its final report in June 2022, recommending adverse possession be abolished.

“The Canadian Bill of Rights, passed by Prime Minister Diefenbaker in 1960, protects the ‘enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law.’ Unfortunately, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, enacted in 1982, failed to enshrine property rights for the individual. This means that provinces – which have constitutional authority over property – must step up and defend property rights. Alberta is stepping up by introducing a bill to abolish adverse possession and restore the rights of Alberta’s property owners.”

Tyler Shandro, Minister of Justice

“While listening to Albertans share their views on property rights, I heard over and over again that adverse possession causes stress for landowners and should be abolished. This legislation responds to the concerns I heard and, if passed, will put landowners at ease, knowing that the law will now protect them.”

RJ Sigurdson, chair, Select Special Committee on Real Property Rights

“Protecting property rights is crucial, especially in rural areas where property lines may not be easily visible. The Government of Alberta’s decision to no longer allow adverse possession will protect rural property owners and ensure that land titles remain the primary determiner of property ownership.”

Paul McLauchlin, president, Rural Municipalities of Alberta

“Updating this legislation will address one of the many challenges rural Albertans face, and ensure the property rights of farmers and ranchers are enshrined in legislation so they don’t have to waste time and money protecting their land from those making adverse possession claims.”

Peter J. Dobbie, Farmers’ and Property Rights Advocate

“As a professional land surveyor, I had been involved with boundary issues and had been concerned about adverse possession for over 50 years. In 2012, as the MLA for St. Albert, I put forward a bill to abolish adverse possession. Unfortunately, that bill died on the order paper. Now 10 years later, I am elated to see adverse possession finally abolished.”

Ken Allred, former MLA for St. Albert

“I am delighted to read of the plan to abolish the law of adverse possession – doing so was one of the early recommendations that I made when the Property Rights Advocate Office was first established.  Over the years, many voices have advocated for abolition, including a number of landowners who have been harmed by adverse possession. Finally enacting this change provides added safeguards to the integrity of our land title system – and that brings enhanced assurance and protection for every landowner in the province.”

N. Lee Cutforth, KC, Alberta’s first appointed property rights advocate (2012-2015)