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Highways - Off-Road Vehicles Act

. Beaudin v. Travelers Insurance Company of Canada

In Beaudin v. Travelers Insurance Company of Canada (Ont CA, 2022) the Court of Appeal considered coverage of vehicles governed by the Off-Road Vehicles Act under the motor vehicle provisions of the Insurance Act:
Issue 2: Did the Divisional Court err in holding that the purpose of the ORVA is to promote universal insurance coverage for all drivers of off-road vehicles?

[45] Travelers argues that the Divisional Court also erred by relying upon this court’s decision in Matheson, in holding that the goal of the ORVA is to promote universal coverage of off-road vehicles.

[46] In Matheson, the appellant had driven an uninsured ATV used for farming purposes on a public road when he was struck from behind by a truck. Since his ATV was uninsured, s. 267.6(1) of the Insurance Act potentially applied. Section 267.6(1) provides that a person is not entitled to recover damages for bodily injury or death arising from the use or operation of an automobile if, at the time of the incident, the person was operating an uninsured motor vehicle on a highway contrary to s. 2(1) of the CAIA.

[47] A motion judge had found that the ATV at the time of the accident was a “self-propelled implement of husbandry” and was not a motor vehicle required to be insured. That was because the CAIA, while prohibiting the operation of a motor vehicle on a highway unless it is insured, gives “motor vehicle” the same meaning it has under s. 1 of the Highway Traffic Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. H.8 (“HTA”). Section 1 of the HTA excludes a “self-propelled implement of husbandry” from its definition of “motor vehicle”.

[48] This court overturned that finding on appeal. It held that the motion judge had correctly identified the purpose of the CAIA: to protect innocent victims of automobile accidents. However, his interpretation failed to give effect to that purpose and ignored the larger statutory context. This court held that the HTA, the ORVA, the parts of the Insurance Act dealing with motor vehicle insurance, and the CAIA are all components of one comprehensive scheme: at para. 25.

[49] The motion judge's failure to give effect to Regulation 863, which “could not make clearer” that Mr. Matheson’s ATV was an off-road vehicle, and not a self-propelled implement of husbandry was a sufficient basis for allowing the appeal: at para. 27.

[50] In the Reconsideration Decision, the Associate Chair concluded that the legislative intent of the ORVA, as addressed in Matheson, is the protection of innocent victims of automobile accidents and consequently promoting universal coverage. Travelers argued that by affirming the Associate Chair’s decision, the Divisional Court erred because Matheson is not a case that dealt with off-road vehicles and closed course competitions. Instead, the purpose of the ORVA is public safety and identification and control of off-road vehicles. Travelers argues that requiring competitors participating in a closed course competition to be insured does not further or promote those two goals.

[51] I do not accept that the Divisional court misapplied Matheson or did not correctly identify the purposes of the ORVA. Indeed, the Divisional Court did not explicitly find that the singular goal of the ORVA was the promotion of universal insurance coverage. Instead, the Divisional Court recognized that one aspect of the ORVA is that it forms one part of a comprehensive legislative scheme for automobile insurance in Ontario. At the outset of its reasons, the Divisional Court noted the following:
The ORVA is part of Ontario’s comprehensive legislative scheme for automobile insurance designed to protect innocent victims of automobile accidents. In that regard, its purpose is to encourage safe driving of off-road vehicles and to provide a method of control and identification of such vehicles: Haliburton (County) v. Gillespie, 2013 ONCA 40, 114 O.R. (3d) 116; Matheson v. Lewis, 2014 ONCA 542. [Emphasis added.]
[52] The Divisional Court thus identified that the ORVA has multiple purposes, one of which is to promote the safe operation of off-road vehicles, and one of which is to protect innocent victims of automobile accidents through the imposition of mandatory insurance.

[53] By affirming the Associate Chair’s reliance on this court’s decision in Matheson, the Divisional Court recognized that any interpretation of the provisions of the ORVA must be situated in a broader comprehensive scheme of auto insurance in Ontario, and that this wider context must be considered. In Matheson, Juriansz J.A. for this court wrote:
The Highway Traffic Act, the Off-Road Vehicles Act, the parts of the Insurance Act dealing with motor vehicle insurance, and the Compulsory Automobile Insurance Act are all components of one comprehensive scheme. As a principle of statutory interpretation, there is a presumption of harmony, coherence and consistency between statutes dealing with the same subject matter: R. v. Ulybel Enterprises Ltd., 2001 SCC 56, [2001] 2 S.C.R. 867, at para. 52; Ruth Sullivan, Statutory Interpretation, 2nd ed. (Toronto: Irwin, 2007), at pp. 149-151. [Emphasis added.]
[54] Accordingly, any interpretation of the ORVA must keep in mind that it is just one piece of a comprehensive scheme of automobile insurance and that it must be read harmoniously with other legislation that makes up that scheme. The goal of the statutory automobile insurance scheme is to protect victims of automobile accidents by promoting universal coverage. Accordingly, any interpretation of the ORVA must take into account the intent of the overall legislative scheme of automobile insurance: Matheson, at para. 37.

[55] While it is true that Matheson was decided in the context of driving on a highway, the factual context underlying Matheson does not detract from the fact that if drivers without insurance are in an accident, they are faced with a serious risk of not being able to obtain damages and benefits. It makes sense to interpret the ORVA consistently with the entire scheme of automobile insurance in Ontario, which promotes universal insurance coverage with only a few exceptions. One cannot completely divorce s. 15 of the ORVA – the mandatory insurance requirement for off-road vehicles, a requirement that protects injured persons as well as owners of property damaged – from the rest of the legislative scheme which promotes universal coverage.

[56] As I will explain below, the conclusion that sponsorship is required for closed course competitions to be exempt from the ORVA aligns with the view set out by this court in Matheson and the principle of statutory interpretation that harmony should be achieved between the various statutes enacted by the same government, especially when the statutes relate to the same subject matter: Therrien (Re), 2001 SCC 35, [2001] 2 S.C.R. 3, at para. 121; Shaver-Kudell Manufacturing Inc. v. Knight Manufacturing Inc., 2021 ONCA 925, 160 O.R. (3d) 205, at para. 28. The Associate Chair and the Divisional Court did not misapply Matheson – they properly relied on it. Consequently, I would reject this ground of appeal.

....

[59] I do not accept this argument. As noted above, the exemption in the regulation must be interpreted so as to fit the remedial nature of the scheme established by the ORVA and to further its purposes. The insurance requirement is one prong of that public safety scheme. Section 15 establishes a general requirement for drivers to maintain insurance from which only narrow exceptions are carved out.

[60] Because the ORVA is one component in a larger single scheme of automobile insurance, the ORVA must also be interpreted harmoniously with the other statutes that make up that scheme. In my view, the Divisional Court’s conclusion that only sponsored closed course competitions and rallies are exempt from the provisions of the ORVA is correct in light of context and purpose of the entire legislative scheme.

....

[76] Haliburton confirms that the starting point is a general rule that off-road vehicles need to be insured under ss. 15(1) and (2) of the ORVA, and that only narrow exceptions are carved out from that general rule.



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Last modified: 26-11-22
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