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Laws in Ontario You Should Know About During the Holidays

During the holidays, it can be easy to get caught up with gift giving, family dinners, and New Year’s celebrations. There are some laws  that you will want to pay extra close attention to this time of year.

Get informed on a few laws in Ontario and Toronto that you should know about during the holiday season. Learn what laws could affect you and how to better plan your holiday activities and celebrations this year.


Snow Removal

Shoveling your walk and the front of your street may be something you think the city is responsible for, but  actually, it is required by law for residents and business owners to do so. For instance, in Toronto you are required to remove snow and ice from your property within 12 hours of a snowfall from all adjacent sidewalks to your property. If not, you can be fined up to $100.00 on top of a $25 surcharged.


Outdoor Fires

Nothing that says Christmas like gathering around a fire with some hot chocolate and loved ones. So it may seem even more festive to create a firepit  in your backyard. However, you should know that, in Toronto, Open Air Burning isn’t permitted. In some cases, it is permitted such as cases that involve controlled, confined grills or barbecues for cooking food, using outdoor fireplace appliances approved under the Fire Code, or if you have an Open Air Burn permit (requires that your property be inspected).

For outdoor fires within Ontario, you can burn wood, brush, leaves and grass provided that you follow certain conditions outside of fire season (April 1- October 31). Needless to say, it is  illegal to set a fire within Restricted Fire Zones. You could face a fine of up to $1000 along with any  costs associated with fighting a forest fire and 3 months in jail. Wherever you spend your holiday season with an outdoor fire, make sure you know under which conditions you can do so.


Winter And Studded Tires

With the snowy weather that happens in Canada, you need to ensure that your car is all geared up to deal with the snow for safer driving. However, there is some confusion as to whether or not they are mandatory by law. The short answer is no. In Ontario, winter tires are not required.  

As an incentive though, since January 2016, the Ontario government requires insurers to offer a discount for drivers with approved winter tires.  Note that winter tires are only legal in Quebec. If you are driving to the province for your winter vacation,  you do not have to worry about being hit by this law though. Tourists and visitors are exempt. Only Quebec registered vehicles can be charged if not equipped.

Studded tires, on the other hand, are permitted from September 1st and May 31th. However, they are only allowed on vehicles registered in Northern Ontario. They are illegal in Southern Ontario. The only exceptions to this law are if you are visiting from another province or are a Northern Ontario resident.


Cycling on Sidewalks

Though this may seem out of keeping with the season, cycling during the winter still happens. This is especially true with food delivery services like Uber Eats or Foodora where people are ordering in because of the snow and cold weather. Hence, becoming a delivery partner for either of those services can seem like a great opportunity to make some extra side money during the holidays.

Yet you should know that any adult over 14 who is cycling on sidewalks in Toronto  can be ticketed with a $60 fine. So if you’re thinking of using the sidewalks instead of the snowy streets, ask yourself if doing so is worth your hard earned delivery money.


Drinking & Driving

Everyone in Ontario knows about the Reduce Impaired Driving Everywhere (RIDE) program. Under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, police are authorized to stop and question drivers to detect drunk drivers. Yet, while you may know about the program, you may not know your rights when pulled over. Do you?

Here is a list of what you should know about rules of this program:

  • If you are pulled over and directed to provide a roadside breath test,  you are required by law to do so.  
  • Failing or refusing to provide the roadside breath sample can lead to a charge of “refuse to provide breath sample,” placing you in the same situation as being charged with an “over 80” or impaired driving
  • Your answers to the police when pulled over occur before you are arrested and cannot be used against you at trial later on (if it comes to that)  
  • R.I.D.E. gives officers the right to stop and question you  even without grounds  for believing that you are over the legal blood alcohol limit
  • Police are not allowed to perform any other investigations or searches unless there is an obvious reason (for example, if drugs are clearly visible in the car)
  • If you advise the officer you have not been drinking and there are no other signs of  impairment to give the officer a reasonable suspicion that you are drunk, the offer is required to let you continue on.
  • When admitting that you drank only a small amount of alcohol, you provide officers with a reason to conduct for a roadside Approved Screening Device (ASD) test.
  • Police are only allowed to ask you questions that directly pertain to your use of alcohol. You are not obliged to answer any other unrelated questions.
  • Indicators of impairment that an officer will look for include: the smell of alcohol on your breath, opened alcohol containers in the car, slurred speech, delayed reaction, disorientation, and red, glassy-looking eyes.


Gift Cards & Shopping Mall Cards  

Gift cards and shopping mall cards seem like the most convenient present if you know which stores your loved ones shop at frequently. Yet when buying a gift card, you don’t normally think beyond the card’s face value. But lo and behold, there are somethings you should know and tell the person you give it to.

For instance, under the Consumer Protection Act, you should not be charged extra fees for using the gift card, but shopping mall cards can charge you up to $1.50 for an activation fee. Also, businesses cannot put a tax charge on gift cards when you buy them. Moreover, while some gift cards can have an expiry date, shopping mall cards only keep their value for up to 15 months from the day it was purchased.  So be sure to read the fine print on any gift card you buy and ask the sales representatives questions regarding conditions, use, and policies you should know about.


Pay Parking Laws

This one may surprise you, but if you live in Toronto you will be happy to know that pay parking bylaws are not enforced in Toronto on statutory holidays— this means Christmas and Boxing Day when parking your car always seems to be the worst! Though you can still be ticketed for other violations like parking in a front a fire hydrant, it is actually up to the officer whether or not to enforce pay parking laws.


The above is meant for informational purposes only and not meant to be taken as legal advice. So be sure to consult a lawyer first with your particular issue.