Amendments to the Public Lands Act to Support Red Tape Reduction

ERO number
Notice type
Public Lands Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry
Transferred to
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Bulletin posted
Last updated

This notice is for informational purposes only. There is no requirement to consult on this initiative on the Environmental Registry of Ontario. Learn more about the types of notices on the registry.

Update Announcement

Bill 13 (Supporting People and Businesses Act, 2021) received Royal Assent on December 2, 2021. For information on the approved Regulatory Registry notice click on Public Lands Act - Regulatory Registry link under Related Links, in the Supporting Section of this notice.

Bulletin summary

We are proposing to amend the Public Lands Act to reduce red-tape for clients. Changes would improve customer service and government efficiency, reduce unnecessary burdens, and provide a greater ability to make public lands available for economic development opportunities, particularly in the North.

Why consultation isn't required

The Environmental Bill of Rights does not require this notice to be placed on the Environmental Registry because the proposed amendments are not environmentally significant. However, we are sharing our proposals to amend the Public Lands Act for information purposes.

Bulletin details

The Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry (NDMNRF) is proposing the following changes to the Public Lands Act (PLA):

1. Minister’s Authority

Most public lands related decisions rest with the Minister of NDMNRF while some are made by the Lieutenant Governor in Council through an Order in Council, which is a time-consuming process that results in delays for clients. The proposal would provide the following authorities to the Minister:

i.     Setting apart areas of public lands for any purpose that will benefit research in and the management, use and administration of public lands and forests.

ii.     Approving the disposal of public land to Ministry officers or employees (while meeting obligations set out in Ontario Regulation 381/07 regarding conflict of interest rules for servants under the Public Service of Ontario Act).

iii.     Releasing lands from a habendum restriction in letters patent, (i.e., removing a requirement that the land be used for a specific purpose, such as for a school). 

iv.     Releasing a condition that requires public lands transferred to the federal government, be returned to Ontario if the federal government is no longer using the land.

v.     Releasing restrictions in letters patents (e.g., a requirement that the government approve to the sale of the land).

2. Public Reserves

Section 3 of the PLA restricts transfer or disposition of lands bordering water bodies where less than 25 per cent of the lands’ frontage would remain public lands. Proposed amendments ensure the Minister can transfer public lands to other governments, agencies, or Indigenous communities for purposes such as settlement of land claims and infrastructure/economic development. The proposal would not change the Ministry’s requirement to consider potential environmental impacts of dispositions and to fulfill the Crown’s Duty to Consult with Aboriginal communities. 

3. Adverse Possession

Currently individuals may acquire possessory title to claim public lands after 60 years of adverse possession (“squatting”). This prevents the Province from preserving public lands for uses including economic development and environmental protection, receiving fair value for lands through sale or lease, and the efficient settlement of Indigenous land claims. 

Proposed changes to the PLA would prevent any person from acquiring an interest in public lands through use, possession, or occupation of the lands.

The ministry would continue to process quit claim (i.e., squatting claim) letters patent applications for persons who meet the requirements (60+ years of adverse possession) prior to the changes coming into effect (i.e. there is no deadline to apply in these circumstances).

The proposed changes would also provide the Minister with the authority to correct registrations or deposits against public lands under the Registry Act

4. Fees

The proposed changes would clarify that the Minister has explicit authority to set, charge, waive, change, or refund fees for services, permissions or decisions related to the management, use or disposition of public lands. No new fees or changes to existing fees are being proposed.

If the proposed changes are made, the Ministry would seek approval to make minor amendments to Ontario Regulation 326/94 (Crown land camping permit) and Ontario Regulation 975 (Work Permits) to remove provisions that set fees by regulation to ensure they align with the changes to the PLA.

If you would like to comment on these proposals, please refer to the related PLA Regulatory Registry Ontario notice below.

Supporting materials

View materials in person

Some supporting materials may not be available online. If this is the case, you can request to view the materials in person.

Get in touch with the office listed below to find out if materials are available.

NDMNRF - Crown Forests and Lands Policy Branch - Crown Lands Policy Section

300 Water Street
5th floor, North tower
Peterborough, ON
K9J 3C7

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Donna Lynn Clarke

Phone number
Crown Forests and Lands Policy Branch - Crown Lands Section

300 Water street
5th Floor, North tower
Peterborough, ON
K9J 3C7

Office phone number

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