New Bill 13 proposes off-road vehicle registration

BC is one of the last provinces in Canada that does not require registration of off-road vehicles. The status may be about to change

British Columbia is currently one of the last provinces in Canada that does not require registration of off-road vehicles. The status may be about to change, with the proposed Bill 13, the Off Road Vehicle (ORV) Act.

Steve Thomson, B.C. Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, made the announcement Monday, Feb. 24 in Victoria, saying the proposed legislation will replace the 40-year-old Motor Vehicle (All Terrain) Act with a modern management structure, and will make B.C.’s backcountry safer.

“Whether hunting, fishing, getting back to nature or just getting to work, many outdoor enthusiasts rely on off-road vehicles to augment their rural experience,” Thomson said. “The Off-Road Vehicle Act will secure the future of off-road vehicle use in a way that is self-sustaining, safe and environmentally responsible.”

ORVs are used in a variety of sectors in British Columbia, including farming, ranching, forestry, oil and gas, mining, sport, tourism, transportation and search and rescue. It’s estimated that 200,000 ORVs are in use in B.C., and while snowmobiles have been registered in the province since the 1970s, we are currently one of the last provinces in Canada that does not require registration of other off-road vehicles.

A press release from the government of B.C. says the proposed ORV Act “is the result of extensive consultation, and represents a fair compromise for all user groups.” Implementation of Bill 13, including registration provisions, is anticipated in the fall of 2014.

This does not necessarily mean that the vehicles will have to be insured, says Greig Bethel of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

“In Alberta, third party liability insurance is required. It is common practice in other provinces. As for whether insurance will be required in B.C., the answer is not now. It may be coming though.”

The act, if passed and brought into force, will:

• Establish a one-time registration system  designed to integrate with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia’s vehicle registry, reducing implementation costs. ORVs will have to be registered and display a clearly visible number plate before they can be operated on Crown or other public land.

• Allow the development of regulations on the rules of operation (such as wearing helmets), safety standards and conditions of use for a wide range of modern ORVs, including snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles or “quads,” dirt bikes and utility terrain vehicles.

• Assist in identifying stolen or abandoned ORVs, by requiring ORVs to be registered in a database that is accessible to peace officers at all times.

• Provide officers with more effective enforcement tools to target the small number of irresponsible ORV owners that endanger others or damage sensitive habitat. This includes the ability to stop and inspect ORVs for violations, seize an ORV for safety or evidence purposes, and increase the maximum fine for offences from $500 to $5,000.

“The framework set out in this legislation responds to a number of issues raised by local governments,” said Rhona Martin, President of the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

“The extensive consultation undertaken by the province on this issue has resulted in legislation that balances the interests of many different groups.”


With files from Carolyn Grant