| Nov 01, 2007

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Legalese - November 1, 2007 2007 Hunting Columnby Susan Irwin, Lawyer/Executive Director

Legalese is a column of general information and opinion on legal topics by the lawyers of Rural Legal Services, Box 359, Sharbot Lake, ON, K0H2P0, 613-279-3252, or 1-888-777-8916. This column is not intended to provide legal advice. You should contact a lawyer to determine your legal rights and obligations.

Yes, it’s that time of year again! Many people look forward to it, others endure it. Whatever your perspective on hunting, with the main deer season in our region set to open, it is timely to review some of the legal issues that should be considered by hunters before they pick up their rifle or shotgun, don their favourite shade of orange, and head out to the watch.


Along with carrying their shotgun or rifle, hunters must have their firearms licence with them. Conservation Officers from the Ministry of Natural Resources, as well as the police, can request hunters to produce their firearms licence. With few exceptions, in the absence of a valid Possession and Acquisition Licence (“PAL”) or Possession Only Licence (“POL”), hunters can expect to be charged and have their firearms seized.

Hunters may also be required to produce proof that the firearm they are using has been registered. It is an offence for any person to be in possession of a rifle or shotgun without also having in their possession a Registration Certificate issued by the Canadian Firearms Centre for that firearm. Consequently along with a valid hunting licence or Outdoors card, hunters must be able to produce their firearms licence and Registration Certificates if asked to do so by a Conservation Officer or a peace officer. Don’t leave home without them!

Breaches of the rules and regulations dealing with firearms are criminal offences and a conviction will result in a criminal record. Questions on gun registration and firearms licences should be directed to the Canadian Firearms Centre at 1-800-731-4000.

Responsible hunters also know that trespassing is probably one of the most common sources of complaints during hunting season. If it’s not Crown Land, and you don't have clear (preferably written) permission to hunt on land that is not your own, STAY OFF THE PROPERTY. Wandering where you are not allowed to be can have serious consequences and can, depending on the circumstances, result in charges. Besides a fine, this nuisance behaviour can also result in hunting licences being revoked.

Finally, it always comes as a surprise to find out how many hunters simply ignore the issue of their legal liability in the event of an accident. Although the rate of injury and death (for hunters) is extremely low, accidents can and do happen. The financial consequences that can arise from an accidental shooting, both for the shooter and the victim, are overwhelming. Some hunting and shooting organizations offer inexpensive liability insurance to their members that may also include coverage for accidental property damage.

Further information on hunting is available from the Ministry of Natural Resources through its annual hunting handbook (Regulations Summary), its general information line, 1-800-667-1940, and at its website “www.mnr.gov.on.ca”.

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