Newfoundland and Labrador’s Crown lands are administered under the Lands Act and allocated as a public trust. The Provincial Government manages this valuable resource in a responsible manner for the continuous social and economic benefit of the province’s residents for present and future generations.
The Provincial Government is considering updating Lands Act to clarify adverse possession against the Crown and protect the land interests of the people of the province. To assist in this process, the province engaged the public and key stakeholders for input.
Permanent settlement of Newfoundland and Labrador existed prior to the establishment of a system of government and land registry. Long-term use and occupation, or squatting, has become a common way for people to assert claims to land.
In 1976, the law concerning Crown lands in the province changed in two significant ways:
- Squatters Rights of Crown Lands (Adverse Possession) was abolished. Since 1977, it has been illegal to “squat” against the Crown.
- The period of time required to be considered to claim an interest in lands was changed from 60 years to 20 years. To acquire an interest in Crown lands, a person had to openly, notoriously, continuously and exclusively occupy lands for the 20 year period immediately prior to January 1, 1977, and have used those lands for agricultural, business or residential purposes during that time.
In 1976, these changes were seen as revolutionary and a required step to improve land administration in the province. In 2015, the Department undertook a review of Lands Act. One of the specific focuses was to assess the provisions of section 36 to determine whether changes should be made regarding Adverse Possession. The final report recommended that the Province maintain the position that Adverse Possession against the Crown was abolished after December 31, 1976, and that only those who met the existing requirements be permitted to have their claim recognized. In addition, the report supported the Crown being able to quit its claim to lands where the Crown is satisfied that someone may have acquired an interest in those lands.
The Registry of Deeds Act, 2009 governs the registration of deeds and related documentation in the province. However, there is no legislative requirement for deeds to be registered in Newfoundland and Labrador, nor is there a title system as exists in most jurisdictions. Administering Crown lands based on possession is challenging; and as time goes on, it becomes increasingly more difficult.
The Department wishes to thank those who participated in this consultation process.
If you have any questions about the collection, use or disclosure of information, please contact the ATIPP Coordinator at ATIPPFFA@gov.nl.ca.