CASE LAW - Private Road or Highway?

BC Courts Coat of ArmsIn the case of British Columbia v Querin Justice Kirchner is asked to decide whether a road running through the property of Curtis and Deanne Querin is a private road on their property or is a public highway owned by the province.

Image of the Disputed Private Road

The Disputed Private Road

The question to be decided in the trial is whether the road has been regularly used by the public and whether the province has spent public money for its maintenance.

History of the Private Road

Justice Kirchner examined the history of the private road dating back to the 1970s. Previous property owners were able to tell the court how the road evolved over time and that the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) had improved and maintained it along with the rest of Riverside Road. 

The road was used between 1995 and 2017 by the Callahans to access their residence on the neighbouring quarter section of land.

Source of the Dispute

The Callaghans were planning to subdivide their property in 2015. The intention was to create a lot for their home and sell the remaining property. They anticipated the road that they used to access their home would also provide access to the subdivided property.

The Querins were not content with this and posted "Keep Out" and "Private Drive" signs.

The Dispute Escalates

In 2017 Mr. Querin installed a gate and put concrete blocks across the disputed road to prevent anyone from using it. This prevented the Callaghans from driving to their home.

The RCMP and MOTI refused to become involved and clear the road. However, after an appeal to the Attorney General, the MOTI removed the gate and blocks.

Legal Action

The province asked the court to declare the private road to be a highway and to award damages of $4,727.25 which was the cost of having the road maintenance contract remove the concrete blocks.

The Decision

Justice Kirchner decided that the private road was now a highway. 

He declined to award damages because the province had removed the gate from what turned out to be the Querin's property and not part of the highway.

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