What Is the Law That Requires a Snowmobile to Have Insurance?

The Motorized Snow Vehicles Act Mandates That Snowmobiles Carry Insurance Coverage the Same As Is Required For Automobiles. Failing to Carry Proper Insurance May Lead to a Fine Between $200 and $1,000 Unless It Is Proven That the Snowmobile Was Operated Upon Land Occupied By the Snowmobile Owner.

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A Helpful Guide For How to Understand the Requirement of Automobile Insurance For Operators of Snowmobiles

Yellow Snowmobile on Fresh Snow With Snow Covered Trees In Background The fun of riding a snowmobile should be greatly enjoyed; however, similar to an automobile, driving a snowmobile involves risk of injury and even death; and accordingly, for the same reasons that insurance is required for the operation of an automobile, insurance is also required for the operation of a snowmobile.

The Law
What Are the Insurance Requirements For a Snowmobile?

The requirement to carry insurance coverage for the use and operation of a snowmobile is prescribed by section 12 of the Motorized Snow Vehicles Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. M.44 which states:

Insurance

12 (1) No person shall drive a motorized snow vehicle unless the vehicle is insured under a motor vehicle liability policy in accordance with the Insurance Act, and the owner of a motorized snow vehicle shall not permit any person to drive the vehicle unless the vehicle is so insured.

Production of evidence of insurance

(2) The driver of a motorized snow vehicle who drives or permits the driving of the motorized snow vehicle shall, upon the request of a police officer or conservation officer, produce evidence that the vehicle is insured under a motor vehicle liability policy in accordance with the Insurance Act.

Offence for failure to have insurance

(3) Every person who contravenes subsection (1) is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $200 and not more than $1,000.

Offence for producing false evidence

(4) Every driver of a motorized snow vehicle who produces false evidence when required to produce evidence under subsection (2) is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not less than $200 and not more than $1,000.

Exemption

(5) This section does not apply to a person driving a motorized snow vehicle on land occupied by the owner of the vehicle.

Application of Part VI of Insurance Act

(6) A motorized snow vehicle shall be deemed to be a motor vehicle for the purposes of Part VI of the Insurance Act.

Required Coverage

Similar to insuring an automobile, the mandatory coverage required within an insurance policy for the ownership, use, and operation, of a snowmobile requires:

Other coverage, such as collision and comprehensive or specified perils, among others, are optional at law and may be made available by an insurance company.

Exception

Interestingly, section 12(5) provides an exception allowing an uninsured snowmobile where the snowmobile is operated upon land that is occupied by the owner of the snowmobile; however, it is notable that the word "occupied" is undefined within the Motorized Snow Vehicles Act; and accordingly, whether the word "occupied" means owned, tenanted, or in some way licenced for use, such appears as a point remaining for a clarity from an appellate court.  This concern was pointed out within the appeal case of R. v. Tenniscoe, 2006 ONCJ 315 wherein it was said:

[8]  In essence, the respondent asserted that Mr. Tenniscoe, the owner of the snow machine, by virtue of his trapping licence and the activities undertaken pursuant to that licence, occupied the land upon which the snow machine was operated.

[9]  The Crown argued that Mr. Tenniscoe’s trapper’s licence did not impart occupiers’ rights.  Rather, the free use of this land for members of the public to engage in a number of activities, including hiking, cross country skiing, hunting and camping, support the opposite.  The MVSA does not define “occupier”.  However, the definition of “occupier” in the Off-Road Vehicles Act, the Trespass to Property Act and the Occupiers Liability Act all require physical possession and an element of control over the lands.  By analogy, those definitions, the Crown argues, inform how “occupier” should be interpreted under the MVSA.  Mr. Tenniscoe did not fall within that meaning.

[10]  The respondent argued that because Mr. Tenniscoe had exclusive control over the activities of trapping in TB 154, he was in fact an occupier of the land and fell within the statutory exemption.

[11]  The Justice of the Peace delivered oral reasons after the trial.  His reasons included the wording of the information, recited section 12(1) of the MVSA (the offence section) and section 12(5) of the MVSA (the exemption), and referred to a dictionary definition of the word “occupier”.  The Justice of the Peace concluded as follows:

“When it comes to the facts before this Court, there is no dispute with respect to the motorized snow vehicle in question, is owned by Mr. William Tenniscoe.  It is operated by Angela Tenniscoe on the date in question, February 13th, 2005 on Brule Creek Road, District of Thunder Bay.  And it is on the registered trap line, TB154, registered to Mr. William Tenniscoe.

I have listened to both Prosecution and defence and I appreciate very much everything that was provided to me in written argument, case law, argument, but when I take all the evidence, in its totality, into consideration, I find that the defendant has raised some doubt.  It is reasonable doubt and the benefit of the doubt has to go to the accused.  Therefore this charge is to be dismissed.”

While the above appeared to favour the accused, whereas the trial court dismissed the charge, it is notable that the appeal court failed to make a ruling as to what constitutes as an "occupier".  Instead, the appeal court deemed that the trial court failed to provide clear reasoning for how the issue of "occupier" was addressed; and instead, a new trial was ordered.  Frustratingly, the decision within the new trial is unreported on the online CanLII system.  What the appeal court did say in this regard was:

[16]  The key issue in this trial was whether the defendant had established on a balance of probabilities that she came within the exemption in section 12(5) of the MVSA. There was no dispute that the respondent was operating an uninsured snow machine on the date and at the place in question and that the vehicle was owned by Mr. Tenniscoe.  To address this issue, the learned Justice of the Peace was required to deal with a number of matters, including the credibility of various witnesses, the meaning of “occupied” under the MVSA, and ultimately whether the respondent had met her evidentiary burden to bring herself within the statutory exception.

[17]  The learned Justice of the Peace’s reasons did not address any of these matters.  The reasons were silent as to the evidence he considered, what weight, if any, it should be afforded, and there was no analysis of the evidence and submissions regarding section 12(5) of the MVSA.  Rather, the reasons were general and conclusionary in nature.  They did not address the issues raised in the trial and failed to demonstrate or articulate the reasoning pathway taken by the Justice of the Peace to arrive at the conclusion he did.

[18]  Reasons need not be elaborate, and they must be read as a whole and in connection with the evidence and submissions (see R. v. Kendall, supra).  However, a bald statement that the Justice of the Peace was left in doubt, without reference to the evidence and the issues raised at trial cannot be considered cogent reasons that would permit meaningful appellate review.

[19]  I conclude that the learned Justice of the Peace erred in law in failing to provide sufficient reasons to permit appellate review of the correctness of his decision.

[20]  Given this conclusion and in these circumstances, I cannot address the first two issues raised by the Crown in this appeal.  Nor am I able, from a review of the record, to explain to the parties in any meaningful way the result at trial.

[21]  The appeal against acquittal is allowed and a new trial ordered.

Accordingly, the full extent for what the word "occupied" is legally defined as in respect of section 12(5) of the Motorized Snow Vehicles Act remains unclear; however, those lands which are owned or tenanted, and thus in the care and control of the snowmobile owner appear likely to fall into the definition of "occupied"; but, how much further the word "occupied" may be defined remains, at present, unknown.

Summary Comment

The driver and the owner of a snowmobile may be charged with failing to carry insurance coverage and each may be fined between two hundred ($200) dollars and one thousand ($1,000) dollars for such a violation of the Motorized Snow Vehicles Act which requires that insurance coverage similar to that mandatory for an automobile be in force unless the snowmobile is operated upon lands "occupied" by the snowmobile owner.  Interestingly, a complete definition for the meaning of "occupied" remains unclear.


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