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Governance &
Structure Division

Terms & Concepts in the Community Charter: Municipal Ownership of Highways


Part 3, Division 5 of the Community Charter gives a municipality ownership of most of the highways within its boundaries. The real property associated with the highways is vested fee simple. The province will continue to be responsible and have jurisdiction for provincial highways travelling through municipalities.

The right of ownership is accompanied by other important powers. For example, under the legislation:

  • council has explicit authority to grant a license of occupation or an easement in respect of a highway owned by the municipality;
  • council has explicit authority to permit an encroachment on a highway owned by the municipality;
  • council may close a highway, remove the dedication of a municipal highway, raise title and transfer title over the land without having to apply to the province for a Crown grant but subject to the province's right of resumption;
  • council's broad authority (see Part 2) to regulate highways as a municipal service is affirmed;
  • council has specific authority to regulate and prohibit highway uses;
  • council has the authority to restrict the common law right of passage by the public over a municipal highway as part of any authority it has in relation to these highways; and
  • council may enter into agreements designed to exempt persons, in exchange for appropriate compensation, from a municipal bylaw that regulates or prohibits extraordinary traffic on municipal highways.

In addition to providing these authorities, the Community Charter imposes certain restrictions on a municipality. Before council can close or dispose of a section of a highway council must provide public notice of its intention and provide an opportunity for representations to council, and must notify all affected utility operators. The municipality may also have to ensure that the province's right of resumption is removed. Other restrictions are in place to protect the public's access to water bodies, a property owner's sole access to his or her property and a utility operator's need for certainty with respect to its transmission and distribution facilities.

The Community Charter also requires council to obtain the approval of the minister responsible for the Transportation Act for a bylaw that proposes to close or reopen a municipal highway within 800 metres of an arterial highway.

Please direct questions or comments to Advisory Services Branch.

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