Turns out storing your camper trailer on Crown land can come with a hefty price tag. On April 8, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) announced that it was fining Ralph Miller of Timmins, Ont. $7,000 for leaving his camper trailer and personal belongings on Crown land over the 21-day limit.
In January 2018, a conservation officer encountered Miller’s camper at the Pharand Lake boat launch, approximately an hour and a half southwest of Timmins. The trailer remained there over the winter, exceeding the 21-day limit for camping on Crown land. In May, conservation officers ticketed Miller and told him to move his camper. Miller neither paid his ticket nor moved his camper.
Over the winter of 2019, Miller left his camper in the same location. When discovered by conservation officers, they charged Miller under the Public Lands Act and removed his camper from the site.
Justice of the Peace Jean-Marie Blier presided over the case, but Miller failed to attend any of his scheduled court dates. Finally, on March 24, 2022, Blier heard the case remotely in the Ontario Court of Justice, in Timmins, and found Miller guilty during a trial in absentia, fining him $7,000.
In some regards, Miller got off light. According to the MNRF, failing to remove personal property from Crown land can constitute a maximum fine of $15,000, with an additional fine of $1,000 for each day the offence continues. If it’s a second offence, it can warrant up to a $25,000 fine.
Under Ontario’s Public Lands Act, all Canadian citizens are allowed to camp on Crown land for free for a maximum of 21 days. After that 21 days, you need to move your camping equipment a minimum of 100 metres from your previous site to be entitled to another 21 days. You’re then not allowed to camp on your previous site for an entire year.
Not all Crown land is open to camping, though. You can check which Crown land locations are available for camping here. The MNRF advises that you check before heading out as you could be fined for camping on prohibited Crown land.
Non-residents can also camp on Crown land, but if you’re a non-resident camping north of the Mattawa and French Rivers, you must purchase a permit through Service Ontario. It costs $9.35 per person per night. Even with a permit, non-residents are still restricted to the 21-day limit.
“As with all campers, the 21-day temporary use ensures that sites are available to others and helps reduce environmental impacts,” the MNRF said in an email.