Boathouse example image

Municipal authority over boathouses

UPDATE October 2016 – Changes in the works to eliminate “dock permits”


FOCA is pleased that the MNRF are finally making the legislative changes to eliminate the overregulation of docks in Ontario.

Schedule 14 of Provincial Bill 27, “Burden Reduction Act, 2016”  includes provisions to amend 4 statutes administered by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). If passed, the proposed changes include revisions to the Public Lands Act (PLA) which would:

Allow individuals to occupy public lands with certain types of buildings, structures or things prescribed by regulation, without the need for a permit or other instrument under the PLA. These individuals would be subject to the limitations and requirements specified in the proposed Bill and any future regulations made under the PLA. The intention of these proposed PLA amendments is to address specific, low-risk occupations of public lands (e.g., docks and other small waterfront structures).”

These changes are also described in an information notice posted to the Environmental Bill of Rights, under EBR Registry Number 012-7645

The Bill was reintroduced in the Fall 2016 session of the Ontario Legislature, and passed Second Reading November 29, 2016.


June 27, 2016 – Introductory letter from FOCA to new Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Kathryn McGarry, and an appeal to the new Minister to take action on the outstanding dock and water management files.

May 2016 – Based on this May 9th update to MPP’s from the Minister of Natural Resources & Forestry (PDF, 1 page), new dock permitting requirements will remain in place for all of the 2016 season, if not longer. See background on this issue, below.

MegaphoneConcerns or comments about this new approach to permitting should be sent directly to:

Minister Kathryn McGarry
Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Suite 6630, 6th Floor, Whitney Block
99 Wellesley Street West
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1W3
Tel:  416-314-2301  minister.mnrf@ontario.ca

Please copy FOCA on your letters: info@foca.on.ca. Here are some recent examples:

  • See this email (PDF, 1 pg) to the Minister (copied to FOCA) by Cecebe Waterways Association.
  • See this letter (PDF, 2 pages) sent to the Minister by the Kennisis Lake Cottage Owners Association. 
  • See also this letter  from the Percy Lake Ratepayers’ Assoc.

April 25, 2016 – Following up on our increasing concerns about MNRF’s new approach to managing / approving DOCKS and BOATHOUSES, FOCA has requested a meeting with Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Bill Mauro, to undertake the policy changes to clarify the Province’s approach to this essential waterfront infrastructure.

BUTTON asterixRead FOCA’s April 2016 letter to the Minister (PDF, 2 pages)


April 4, 2016- Dock building and repair just got bogged down in red tape  (Huntsville Doppler)

From the February 24, 2016 FOCA Elert:

Property owners should take note that– according to multiple MNRF sources, including mnr.approval@ontario.ca –the current rules require authorization under the Public Lands Act to construct or place a dock or boathouse that occupies (i.e., that is on or above) more than 15 square meters of shore lands. The area of shore lands occupied by a dock or boathouse will typically be calculated based on the perimeter of the structure.

Individuals who wish to construct or place docks or boathouses that occupy more than 15 square meters of shore land should contact their local MNRF District Office to initiate the formal application process. Local District office contacts can be found here: https://www.ontario.ca/page/ministry-natural-resources-and-forestry-regional-and-district-offices

See also, the required application form.

HOW BIG IS 15 SQ. M.? (PDF, 1 pg)


August 2015 – Crown Lands Policy branch has informed FOCA that the Superior Court ruling (see below) will be eliciting a response and possible policy changes at MNRF – some interim, and then eventually more permanent, to address the shortcomings/inconsistencies related to MNRF’s requirements to issue permits for in-water works. (The judge ruled that pursuant to the Regulations under the Public Lands Act, a permit is required for anyone building a dock or boathouse over Crown lands (aka lakes) larger than 15 square metres). FOCA is awaiting further details and will be providing updates as they become available.


June 18, 2015 – Municipal jurisdiction, and ability to pass by-laws related to on-water structures (e.g. boathouses) was the subject of a lawsuit and subsequent decision rendered by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on this date.

At issue was the position taken by two eastern Ontario municipalities (North Kawartha, and Havelock-Belmont-Methuen) that their planning authority, bylaws and permitting rights and obligations did NOT extend to matters of “in-water” development.

Among other important aspects of this decision was Justice J. Perell’s statement that “I cannot reasonably interpret the bylaws that would allow the municipality to abdicate its governance responsibilities over zoning or the Building Code Act...”

The decision states that:The Township of North Kawartha is, therefore, mistaken in thinking that simply because Crown Lands are involved it cannot enact or enforce its by-laws over the Crown Lands,” citing numerous other instances and municipalities where this authority has been used, and upheld.

You can read the full decision here. (pdf, 24 pages,  1.6MB)

Terry ReesMunicipal authority over boathouses