MNR LAND CLAIM: Private Property Ownership Challenged
• The government of Ontario has gone to Court and claims that many of us do not own the lands on which we live.
• In June, 1990, the Attorney General (AG) on behalf of the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) started a court case based on MNR’s theory that:
1. there is a line on an 1822 survey map and that line is the “line of the wood”,
2. the “line of the wood” runs between Concession 3 and Concession 19 in the Township of Tiny,
3. depending on the place, the “line of the wood” is located 100 feet to 1000 feet inland from the water’s edge,
4. the “line of the wood” is the western boundary of the Township of Tiny, and
5. all land in the zone between the water’s edge and the “line of the wood” between Concession 3 and Concession 19 is unpatented Crown land, land that has always been owned by the Crown/Government of Ontario.
• For its test case, AG/MNR could have targetted any land in the 16 mile zone. For whatever reason, AG/MNR chose to target The Rowntree Beach Association and 14 individual waterfront owners on Plan 750, Concession 11, Tiny Township.
• In June and July 1991, the Court ordered that a notice be sent to all property owners in the zone who could be adversely affected by the result of the lawsuit. By September, 1991, some 2000 notices had been mailed out.
• The Court-ordered notice says: The decision in the Rowntree litigation may affect the rights and title of the registered owners of property in Concessions 3 to 19, and suggests seeking independent legal advice.
Property Rights At Risk
• Tiny’s beaches are now generally shared by the existing back and front lot owners. If Rowntree wins, existing registered deeds will be upheld and back lot owners will retain the same rights they have now. But if the lands in dispute are declared provincial property, like Wasaga Beach, we all could be overwhelmed. Our beaches are within one day’s drive for over 9,000,000 people.
• If the AG/MNR wins, who would be the biggest loser of waterfront property? Tiny Township: it owns some 3 miles of waterfront property and parks.
• If the AG/MNR wins, who would be the biggest winners? The land developers: because if the western shore is declared provincially owned like Wasaga Beach, intense development would not be far behind. Guess where the developers stand?
For the Record
• Reeve Ross Hastings expressed his opinion on the lawsuit affecting 2000 owners and 3 miles of Township-owned waterfront parks in an interview with the Penetanguishene Journal of January 21, 1992. In a quote (never denied or retracted) he stated: “I sure hope the MNR wins it or there’s going to be some fun.”
• On April 29, 1992, by a 4-0 vote (Hastings, Stubbins, Barrie and Maurice in favour, Taylor absent), Tiny Council passed resolution 287-92 supporting the AG/MNR in the lawsuit, thus jeopardizing 3 miles of Township-owned shoreline.
• The Government of Ontario’s lawsuit is one of the largest land law cases ever to go before the courts of Ontario. However, the sad fact is that many owners potentially affected by the “line of the wood” theory still do not understand (or refuse to accept) the implications of the government’s claim against their land.
• Are property owners too trusting? Perhaps Canadians are conditioned to turn to government for comfort and support. Do property owners believe the old line: “I’m here from the government, I’ve come to help?”
• It is simply astounding how, on the one hand, MNR personnel tell us, ‘you soon won’t own your land’ and yet, on the other hand, some of us actually go to the MNR for advice about how to deal with its claim against our properties.
It is possible MNR may approach individual property owners between Tiny Concession 3 and 19 in what might be called a “divide and conquer” strategy. Strange as it may seem, MNR may promise to “give” back to you the land that you already own. Could it be that MNR is concerned it will lose in court, but wants you to think otherwise? Could it be that MNR may try and get as much waterfront land as possible before the court shoots down its “line of the wood” theory?
• Owners cannot make sensible, informed decisions until after the lawsuit has gone to court and the “line of the wood” claim has been decided. Best advice: be cautious, don’t sign anything, hold tight to your own registered deed, report any approaches by provincial officials to your lawyer and to your beach association.
The Senior Regional Judge recently targetted mid-April 1993 as the date for the trial to begin.
For further information, leave your name and number at The Federation by calling . . .