What’s Up With “No Trespassing” Signs When You Travel In Canada? – Why Landowners want to keep you out!

No Trespassing Sign on private property

When I first moved to Canada I didn’t get it either. Especially out in the country with a meager population you come across No Trespassing signs frequently.

Private Property – Keep Out – Trespassers will be prosecuted.

What are the reasons for all this? What does it mean? Why are Canadians so possessive about their property and worried about trespassers?

Trespassing is entering someone’s private property without permission or lawful excuse.

Coming from Europe I’m used to public hiking trails leading through private property, often close to the property owners house, invading their privacy. But, that’s how it always has been there and it is fully accepted.

In Canada it is different. When living out in the country we value our privacy. Private property is not open to the public and you have no right to trespass.

With large properties in Canada, you often don’t know whether it’s private or public.  If you see a No Trespassing sign nailed to a tree I suggest to KEEP OUT! Most Canadians respect the signs and don’t trespass unless they have permission to do so.

The further out we live and the more land we own the bigger is the chance that strangers access our properties. This might be because they don’t realize it is private, or they don’t care at all, or they just want to snoop around.

Scenarios if you ignore the No Trespassing signs
  • Somebody chases you off.
  • You have to listen to verbal abuse.
  • You find a shotgun being pointed at you and realize that you are in the wild west.
  • Dobermans are running towards you ready to attack.
  • You get stuck with your vehicle while trespassing on private property and you have to leave your car while getting help. The car might be towed away by the time you get back to it.
  • The landowner comes and tells you in a polite way, that you are trespassing on his property.

Keep Out of private property

What’s really behind No Trespassing signs on private property?
  • Most Canadians will tell you that it is all about liability; to keep people out so no one can get hurt in a place they don’t belong and the property owner is not at risk of being sued if something happens.
  • It is about responsibility; there are all kinds of risks having strangers on the land. Landowners want to prevent any problems and risks.
  • Ranchers and farmers are worried that gates are left open and animals could escape.
  • Equipment gets vandalized, property gets damaged, and things get stolen. Even an old iron cook stove in a cabin can disappear.
  • Landowners don’t like to clean up garbage left behind by trespassers.
  • In a rare case, there might be a Marijuana grow-op on the land.
As a property owner, I’ve seen it all

There was an incident years ago at the Creighton Valley Ranch when young people drove up our forest trails when we weren’t home and their vehicle got stuck. Trying to hike down the mountain at night without a flashlight one of the girls fell and strained her ankle. We didn’t hear the knock on the door at 3 am and didn’t know search and rescue was on our property until we got up in the morning.

I always thought that it was a bit extreme how we try to enforce the No Trespassing laws in Canada. All the years as a landowner in the North Okanagan, I tried to keep people off my property in a nice way and didn’t enforce it with signs.

But, this changed recently.

I finally took out all the old No Trespassing signs I had stored away for years. I charged the battery for my drill, took a few long screws along, packed it all onto my Quad and drove up the hill. After all those years I screwed the No Trespassing signs along my property line.

No Trespassing Sign on tree

Why did I do it – what changed my mind?

I had some trees felled the year before. Left over from the logging there were at least half a logging truck of birch logs. The wood was laying on my property a little ways up the hill but was noticeable from the road. I left the wood there, waiting for the perfect moment to cut it into firewood. Some of it I even planned to sell to help with the finances.

I was quite shocked when I drove past the wood spot one day and ALL the wood was gone, it had just disappeared. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Somebody stole all the wood from my property and I didn’t even hear them doing it.

 In Conclusion

There are many reasons why we don’t like Trespassers on our properties.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – it exists in Canada as well.

My advice to travellers: Please respect our signs and do not trespass unless you are absolutely sure it’s public land or you have permission from the property owner to do so.

Resources

Consult legal documents for details about the No Trespassing laws in Canada.

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Yrene Dee

Yrene lives in Lumby British Columbia, Canada, and is the founder of BackcountryCanadaTravel.com. She was born in Switzerland, lived and worked on different continents and has travelled the world. Yes, that's me, an Entrepreneur, wilderness nut and animal lover. I write about things I love. Mostely.

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