Occupiers’ Liability Act of Nova Scotia
This information was NOT written by a lawyer and is NOT legal advice.
The legal rights and liabilities of those who own climbing areas are covered (at least in part) under the Occupier’s Liability Act of Nova Scotiawhich was created in 1996. The entire statute is available online here. One of the primary reasons landowners restrict access to climbing areas is the worry that they would be somehow liable if a climber got hurt while on their property, but thankfully the Occupiers’ Liability Act S.N.S. seems to specifically preclude this possibility under section 5(1) Willing Assumption of Risk and section 6(1) Deemed willing assumption of risksubsections b and c.
Liability under Canadian law revolves around the concept of Duty of Care, which (very roughly) means that every person is obligated to try to avoid causing harm to other people. The degree of effort they must expend on ensuring that others do not come into harm depends on the particular connection between any two parties as well as what can be reasonably expected under a given set of circumstances. The duty of care owed between two strangers passing one another on the street is low, while the duty of care that a climbing guide owes her paying client is significantly higher. In Nova Scotia however, the duty of care owed by a landowner to a climber seems to be almost nonexistent.
The Occupiers’ Liability Act S.N.S section 5(1) Willing Assumption of Riskstates that:
The duty of care created by subsection 4(1) does not apply in respect of risks willingly assumed by the person who enters on the premises but, in that case, the occupier owes a duty to the person not to create a dangerwith the deliberate intent of doing harm or damage to the person or property of that person and not to act with reckless disregard of the presence of the person or property of that person.*
Further, the Occupiers’ Liability Act S.N.S section 6(1) Deemed Willing Assumption of Risk states that:
6 (1) This Section applies to
(b) vacant or undeveloped rural land;
(c) forested or wilderness land;
(2) Subject to subsection (3), a person who enters premises described in subsection (1) is deemed to have willingly assumed all the risks and the duty created by subsection 5(1) applies.*
When we as climbers go on someone else’s property free of charge for the purpose of climbing, we are effectively assuming full liability for our own safety. As long as the landowner does not intentionally tamper with existing climbing anchors or trundle rocks down onto climbers, any injury that a climber might suffer on someone else’s land is completely the climber’s responsibility. The landowner holds no liability nor any special duty of care to the climbers.
That said, the Occupiers’ Liability Act does not give climbers permission to trespass, nor does it give us the “right to climb” on someone else’s property. Be careful, be respectful, clean up after yourself, pack out any garbage you find, and leave no trace you were there. Accidents happen and people can get hurt or killed because climbing is dangerous. When you climb, remember that you alone assume all responsibility.