Cabins on Crown Land

Since I discovered a number of cabins built on, what the government map shows as, Crown Land, I’ve been interested in finding out how this could be. For the most part, these cabins looked pretty established, as if they had been there for years.

First of all, my intention to find out more is not driven by jealousy or a need to bring ‘justice’ to the offending parties. I live strictly by a ‘live and let live’ philosophy, and I have no need or desire to conjure up the long arm of the law to gratify my mind that those who shun obedience have been dealt with.

My main reason for wanting to understand this situation is simply to understand what circumstances could lead to the building of these structures and how those who are responsible for overseeing Crown Land view the building of structures on Crown Land. For example, would it be quite acceptable for anyone travelling in the area to use, either the structure itself, or the property it is located on? After all, this is supposed to be public land.

I did send an email to the MNR with some general questions regarding this matter. No specifics were included in this email. I haven’t received a reply yet, and I expect that if/when I do receive a reply it will be the typical ‘canned’ answer, that is so wildly vague as to make it as useless as tits on a bull.

There are regulations regarding the use of Public Lands online but, as is usual with any legal documents, they are very open to interpretation of the reader. Sometimes I think that they are that way because it gives authorities the ‘tools’ they need to interpret them in any way they want in order to bend them in any direction that may become necessary.

I did learn some things from researching this subject though. One surprise was that any aboriginal/native/first nations/Indian, person can build a structure on Crown Land, as long as said structure is pursuant to activities granted by treaties/agreements in place with governments. In other words, if such a person felt they needed a hunt camp or fishing camp, then the building of a structure would be accepted, no permit necessary.

Also, there seems to be some kind of allowance for structures to be built on mining claims. Keep in mind, a mining claim does not have to be some big company, it can be any person who files the proper paperwork and pays a modest fee for the right to look for minerals on a certain plot of land.

So far, these are the only two exceptions I can find, allowing for the placing of structures on Crown Land by the average joe. I know that, in the past, Crown Land could be purchased from the government, and those properties are now shown as ‘private’ on Crown Land maps. This is no longer the case, and Crown Lands are no longer sold to individuals as such. However, Crown Lands are still sold to other entities. For example, the city of Elliot Lake has an agreement with the government referred to as ‘The Elliot Lake Act’. This agreement allows Elliot Lake to purchase any Crown Lands within it’s 19 mile square city limits.

Anyway, the long and short of it all will probably end up being closer to ‘maybe’, ‘if’, ‘and’, or ‘but’. This is how politicians speak and, as funny as it may seem, this is also how weather forecasters speak. They all leave the ultimate answer unanswered, so that they can never be proven wrong, no matter what the circumstances. It’s an excellent lesson in how the human mind works, and how really screwed up we’ve become.


I have now received a reply to my email that I sent to the MNR. It was transferred around a bit until it reached the local area MNR office. I wasn’t totally disappointed with the way that my questions were answered because the lady that sent the reply did try, within the limitations of government policy, to clearly explain how the rules and regulations pertained to my specific questions.

I did learn that there are, in fact, other ways in which these cabins I have seen on, what appears to be Crown Land, may have come about. For one thing, Crown Land has been leased in the past, and these leases may still be in effect today, although it is made clear that leases can be changed or updated, depending on a number of factors. To do this, one must apply for, and be granted, what is called a Recreational Land Use Permit.

These LUP’s(Land Use Permits) that were issued are not guaranteed into the future. If it is found that the terms and conditions of the permit were not being followed, the permit could be revoked. Also, it was pointed out that these types of LUP’s were no longer offered by the MNR, so only past LUP’s exist. I may contact them again to find out how one might be able to determine if any given structure is, in fact, an LUP on Crown Land.

As far as semi-permanent things on Crown Land, such as trailers goes, I do believe that it is very difficult, under the current rules, to regulate that issue. Since it is perfectly legal to put a trailer on Crown Land for up to 21 days in any one location. After the 21 days, it is required that the trailer be moved to a different location, but only 100 meters from where it was. Given the fact that some of these locations are quite remote, I can’t see how they could determine how long a trailer has been where. This would take manpower that I don’t think the MNR has at the moment, so trailers are left on site for much longer periods. Besides the fact that, often times, it is not really clear who might own any particular trailer. These trailers are usually just rolling junk, that aren’t worth a whole lot, so no big loss if they get trashed.

Anyway, I was satisfied that I got a pretty decent picture of the state of affairs regarding structures on Crown Land.

As far as lakes on mining properties goes, the MNR wasn’t really willing to clarify this issue too much. Basically, they just told me to ask permission from the mine property owners if I wanted to access a lake on mine property for the purpose of kayaking on it. I did this and did not receive a reply.

So, overall, the waters are pretty muddy regarding Crown Land. My sense is that, just like a lot of things in life, you make your move and you take your chances. If you get away with things, which is weighted fairly heavy on the likely side, then good for you. However, if you happen to step on the wrong toes, then you might find yourself dealing with the long and slow arm of the government.

I did contact the MNR again to find out if there were any maps that show LUP’s and was told that there were not any public maps that show these locations.


Thanks to Peter’s comment on the post; Presently Popular, I’ve now done some more research on the subject of Cabins on Crown Land.  In particular, I found some interesting information on Trapper’s Cabins.  It seems that these cabins can be built on Crown Land, at no cost to the trapper.  Here’s an excerpt from the MNR, which relates to this subject;

Trapline building(s) may be required by licensed
trappers to provide for shelter,
accommodation, safety and efficient trapline
management. The Ministry’s Free Use
Policy PL 3.03.01 provides that buildings used by
a licensed trapper consistent with this
policy do not require land use occupational authority (e.g. land use permit, lease) under
the Public Lands Act.
From here;  
So, as you can see, this is also a way that these cabins might appear in remote areas, and could very well explain some of the structures I’ve seen in my travels.  Nowadays, you do have to complete a course specifically designed for trapper training, and you need to buy a trappers license, which is about $40.   You would then have to procure an area to trap in.  After that, you can legally put up a cabin on that Crown Land property.

It’s also interesting to note that, in 1997, the rules regarding such cabins were revised so that these cabins could be used year round, which might be of interest to those who would consider going this route, in order to have a cabin on Crown Land.   It is also lawful, and acceptable, for the owners of these cabins, and those accompanying them, to use the cabins for purposes such as fishing, hunting, berry picking etc.  Although it must be kept in mind that these cabins are permitted for the main purpose of operating a trapping line, and this must always be verifiable.

Another little tidbit I just found out, although I’m not certain of the official version, is that the MNR will give a catch ‘quota’ to the trapper, for the trapline, and the trapper must meet at least 75% of that quota, in order to retain the rights to this trapline.  Seems a bit strict to me, but this is the information I came across during my research.
Also, getting a registered trapline is not guaranteed.  There are only 2,800 registered traplines in Ontario, and the MNR controls who gets them.  Even if you get a trappers license, you may be waiting a long time to get a trapline.
 So, again, thanks to Peter for bringing up the subject, so that I could do some more research, and find this interesting information.


Since this has been a very popular post, I thought that I would add some of my thoughts, as to what I would do, and might do.  I’ve always felt that we were, and are, being railroaded, as far as the use of our own public lands goes.  Much of it is inaccessible, just because it’s so remote, and there are no roads to get into it.  However, anywhere there are roads, the MNR controls access, by either gating it, digging trenches, piling rocks, or dirt, taking out bridges, or simply by putting up signs.

These measures are usually taken to protect the area from those who should have free access to it.  They will claim that they are protecting remote tourist lodge owners, and their businesses but this is BS to me.  Any reputable remote lodge owner can find places that are not accessible by a road.  There are untold remote areas, just here in Ontario, that lodges could use.  Maybe the ones that have roads close to them should think about moving to a more remote area.  I’m sure that their customers would prefer that anyway.

I could go on for a long time about this, but it won’t do any good.  What will help is finding ways around these communist tactics.  So, I’m going to suggest one way that some people might like, I know that I like this idea.

If you want to build a permanent structure on Crown Land, you will need approval from the MNR to do so, and if you do it without approval, they can take actions against you.  Most of the time, it will be other people, who find your dwelling, and report it though.  The MNR does not have enough staff to be searching the vast wilderness for illegal structures.

However, you can side step this issue by building a semi-permanent wilderness structure, that is far less likely to be found and, even if it was found, would be no loss.  There are all kinds of wilderness structures one could build, and there’s tons of information on the internet on how to  build one.  Just do a search and you’ll find something that suits you.

Personally, I think that the teepee is one of the oldest, and most useful structures ever created.  Building a wilderness teepee, out of the materials you would find in the bush, is probably the easiest way to go, and you’d be surprised how comfortable they can be.  You can have a fire inside the teepee, both to cook on, and for warmth.  They can be used in winter too.  You can make them as elaborate, or as simple as you like.

Just to give you and idea of what I mean, I did find some nice pictures of what can be done, in a limited amount of time.  Here’s a wilderness teepee that I think most people could build fairly quickly;


You start very simply, with three long poles,  that you can cut from the surrounding forest.  Lash them together at the top.


Add more poles, and then start filling it in with whatever materials are available.  In this case they used pine bows, but I would highly recommend that you try and find an area with lots of moss on the ground.  You can cut this moss into sheets, and apply them over top of the poles, all the way to the top.  This makes a more fireproof inside covering, if you have the dirt side of the moss facing inward.  It also provides nice insulation, and waterproofing.  You can add pine bows, or other materials, such as leaves, on top of that for even more insulation.

I don’t have enough space to upload anymore pictures on this blog, but you get the idea.  There are tons of designs for these types of structures online.  This is a fairly simple one, I’ve seen other that are a bit better, bigger, and still fairly easy to construct.

A structure like this would be quite difficult to see, until you were right on top of it, so it has good stealth.  Even so, it wouldn’t be a great inconvenience if someone did find it, and possibly trash it.  You could build another one quite easily, and finding a different location would be part of the fun.  You could even build multiple teepees, in different areas, so that you could just go to another one, if one was trashed.

Like I say, there’s always a way around obstacles that are put in our way, and it’s not only fun finding them, it’s also fun doing them.  I often paddle past million dollar cottages.  I see the same million dollar view that they see, only I don’t have to look at that same view every day.  Even the best view tends to become mundane after a certain amount of time.  Being able to move your dwelling easily is definitely a plus, and this is what most native peoples used to do.

I understand that some people may want a more permanent, and traditional structure but, take it from me, it costs more than it’s worth.  I’ve been there, and done that.  It’s harder to hit a moving target, so just stay as long as you want, in one place, and then move to  a new location.  Variety is the spice of life.

I want to make one thing clear, regarding building any type of structure on Crown Land, whether it be a rough wilderness/survival type shelter, or a more conventional cabin.  This land is not yours, it is held in trust, by the government, for use by everyone.  Unfortunately, our trust is not always well placed, but that doesn’t mean any of us can go into the wilderness and claim a piece for ourselves.  As far as I’m concerned, no one can ‘own’ the land.  It would be more correct to say that the land owns us, and it will take us back at some point.  Ownership of land is just a human mind-made fantasy.  It’s just as ridiculous as saying that someone ‘owns’ all the animals on a piece of land. 

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that, if I do build a structure on Crown Land, I’m doing it knowing that I don’t ‘own’ that land.  I’m doing it with the intention of using this wilderness resource ‘temporarily’.  If the structure is found, or I find that it is being used by someone else, I will disassemble it and return the area to a natural state, and find another location.  It’s important, when we do something like this, not to let our minds slip into the ‘ownership’ fantasy.  You/I have no rights to defend here, except for using our wilderness in a respectful way, and be willing to relocate, if that should become necessary, without any arguments. The fact is, relocating now and then is probably a good idea, both for the natural habitat, and for stealth purposes. 

All further info on this post will appear on my new blog here;

I have now put up a new blog post, regarding this subject, at the blog link just above this line.  This is my current blog, and all new posts will appear here.  However, I will try to keep this particular blog post updated with links to new post, on my current blog.  To that end, you will find links below, that will take you to new posts, on my current blog, regarding this subject.







17 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Robert Bouchard on September 9, 2013 at 7:21 am

    If it was your right to build shelter for hunting and fishing, would you not build one. And if so where would you build it? The Minister of environment issue permits to all big companies and to the MNR to spray toxic chemical on 1/3 of out country. When are YOUS going to wake up. When the last tree is cut down. The last river poisoned. The last fish caught. Then only will the White man discover that he cannot eat money.


    • You’re preaching to the choir here Robert. I agree with you to a point. However, it’s a slippery slope to get into making it a White vs Native issue. We are all affected by pollution and deforestation. I know that Native people lived in harmony with nature for many years before, but it’s no longer ‘before’. Things change, and we find ourselves in a much different world now. If the White man hadn’t come here in droves, maybe it would have been the Black man, or the Brown man, or whatever. We are all humans, and we need to deal with issues in that light. It’s no longer acceptable to single out races, or nationalities, in order to lay blame.

      I wrote this post a long time ago, so I had to go back and reread it to refresh my memory. I didn’t see anything disrespectful to anyone. I was merely curious regarding the structures I was seeing in my explorations, and what the regulations were in allowing these structures.


  2. Robert was quoting an old Cree Prophecy.

    When all the trees have been cut down,
    when all the animals have been hunted,
    when all the waters are polluted,
    when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
    only then will you discover you cannot eat money.
    ~ Cree Prophecy ~


    • Thanks for the clarification on that Paul. I don’t disagree with the thoughts there, but I do feel that living in the past is not the answer, and it seemed to me that Robert was doing just that. Perpetuating hate, or carrying grudges is not going to solve anything. In fact, there may not be any solution to this particular problem, and humanity might just disappear, which, in itself, is a solution to the problem. All one can do is live life as best they can, while they can.


  3. Posted by Clifford Commanda on December 10, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    I believe there is a difference between theory (laws, rights, etc) and practice…
    I have a hunting cabin, on crown land in Quebec. MNR threatened to burn it down.
    I had to send registered mail with a copy of my indian status card. I go there twice a year, once to bring salt for the moose, and for one week to hunt. We didn’t get a moose this year by the way. However, we did find 60$ under the ashtray on the table with a letter. A person’s truck broke down, and they found my cabin. They stayed in it for 3 days. They greatly appreciated the cut stove wood, the canned food, and pull out couch to sleep on.

    Yes, this is the SAME “I am aboriginal, so yes I can build a cabin for free without regulations or permits” cabin that you discuss above. This cabin also has a note on the door saying ANYONE is welcome to stay, as long as it is left in the same shape as it was found. (Except for moose hunting week, when my family and I go up to hunt)

    And yes, I can hunt anytime I want, but there are reasons why the province decides when is a good time to hunt, it has to do with reproduction of the species, and not making the hunt too easy while the moose is in heat. All reasons, that I too believe in.

    If you ever wander into southern Quebec, let me know, I will pinpoint you the location of the cabin. You may want to bring propane for the stove, think it’s empty.

    Just because aboriginals have certain rights, doesn’t mean they aren’t willing to share the fruits of those rights. If instead of “cabins” discussed above, what if we discussed renewable energy from crown lands, by empowering aboriginals, and using their rights to that land.

    Same idea, different purpose.


    • Thanks for taking the time to comment Clifford. Yes, I have heard of MNR taking action against, what they would refer to as, illegal structures on Crown Land. Many times, it’s because someone other than an MNR official has complained about it. I have no problem with native peoples being able to build on Crown Lands without a permit, or cost. However, I do have a problem with restricted access to Crown Lands for all Canadian citizens. Unlike many people, probably including a lot of native peoples, I don’t believe anyone can ‘own’ the land. Just as I don’t think anyone can ‘own’ the moose that you hunt. I do understand that we need to protect these things from abuse, therefore laws and regulations are required. One of the things I wasn’t clear on was concerning the ‘ownership’ of these structures that are legally built on Crown Lands. You say that you allow people to use your cabin, but I’m sure that many others would not be okay with that. To me, Crown Lands should be public domain, and usable by any Canadian citizen. That’s not to say that anyone could come in there and take over your cabin, common sense must prevail. I think that this is a very vague issue, concerning Crown Lands, and their availability to Canadians, native, or otherwise. I think that we need clearer laws, that protect the land, but also allow more access to the average Canadian. The idea of closing access in the name of protecting the land doesn’t fly with me. Nor does the idea of closing access in order to allow for Tourist Operators to use that land for their own money-making purposes, which usually involves giving Non-Canadians access to Crown Lands, for a price. We have vast areas of Crown Land in Ontario alone, so it’s not like there’s a shortage, or anything like that. The one problem is that most of it is inaccessible to the average person, although ATV’s are changing that rapidly, and taking a toll on the natural environment while doing so. Forest access roads, in this area, could be driven on by most road vehicles, before ATV’s became popular. Now, those same roads are destroyed, and only ATV’s can navigate them. What I’m saying is, that public access is becoming more difficult for those who do not have an ATV, for whatever reason and, in fact, ATV use is responsible for much destruction in these areas anyway. Most city people don’t care about these issues because they don’t see them, and it doesn’t affect them directly. Native people do see the issues but, obviously, they will mostly be concerned about how those issues affect them. I’m just putting my two cents worth in for the average Canadian citizen. I think that we could come up with better ways to allow every Canadian to be able to use, and enjoy Public Lands, without restricting access. When I started this blog post, it was never intended to highlight native activities, when it comes to Crown Lands. I just wanted a clearer understanding of how these structures on Crown Lands came about, and what the disposition of the land, and structures, was seen to be, as far as the Canadian public goes. For example, every spring I see convoys of travel trailers being shuttled up to all the best remote camping spots on Crown Land lakes. These trailers are placed on site, and left to sit there all summer, acting as a portable cottage for use on weekends or holidays. A lot of the people who do this are not even Canadians, but they know that they can get away with it. Then, when people come up on holidays, or weekends, with their camping gear, be it a trailer, or just a tent, they can’t find an available spot, because they’ve all been taken early in the spring, by those who do the same thing every year. This is one practice that I would like to see changed, as far as Crown Lands go. All Crown Land roads, that are able to be used by the average vehicle, should be open for public access. It would be up to the person accessing these roads to determine if their vehicle could handle the job. Why let ATV’s run rampant in the forests, destroying the roads that currently exist, and destroying a lot more too, while restricting access to road vehicles that do very little damage? I don’t want this post to turn into some argument about aboriginal rights. That was never the intended purpose of it. A Canadian is a Canadian, period. That’s the way I see it.


    • Posted by David Gillingham on September 1, 2016 at 11:50 am

      Hi: This message is for Clifford Commanda. Hey Cliff I really appreciated your comment from back in 2015. I also appreciate your attitude as an native resident of PQ. If the country was occupied by more folks like you it sure would be a better place to live in the north woods of Canada. I have a remote cabin in northern Ontario; but unfortunately our native neighbours don’t have the same attitude as you. Just a footnote I understand there was a master canoe builder in PQ who’s last name was Commanda, any relation? Regards David Gillingham


  4. Posted by Kim on April 17, 2016 at 1:47 am

    I have a friend that built a dwelling on crown land that he lived in & the local police burned it down with all his belongings inside is that OK or arsen


    • Hey Kim;

      This is consistent with stories I’ve heard from others. You have to understand that Crown Land does not belong to any individual, it’s held in ‘trust’, by the government, for the citizens of Canada. When you build a structure on Crown Land, without authorization, you need to do so knowing that it can be destroyed at any time. From what I understand, if it is known who built the structure, the authorities will try to contact them and get them to remove it themselves. However, people who build these structures don’t usually want to be known, so authorities will use the most cost effective way of doing the job themselves, which is usually by burning it. They can also pass this cost on to the offender, if their identity is discovered. This is why I would never recommend someone building a traditional structure, such as a cabin, on Crown Land. It makes much more sense to build something like a wilderness teepee, which can be built quite easily, with materials in most forested areas. Also, location is of utmost importance. You don’t want to build anywhere near a trail, or a road, and it should be in an area where people would not normally enter. It’s also prudent to keep campfires for after dark, when the rising smoke cannot be seen, and don’t build close enough to the edge of a lake, or river, so that the structure can be seen from the water, or from the other side. If one uses a little common sense, it can be done but, again, you must allow for the fact that such a structure can be destroyed, either by the authorities, or by people who may find it, at some point. So, it’s not wise to put a huge amount of effort into such a structure. A wilderness teepee can be quite comfortable, and is not difficult to build. If the structure is discovered, it’s not difficult to just choose another location and rebuild.


  5. Posted by larry on July 25, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    Very interesting reading I was searching for answers as my wife is status and would like to put up a cabin on her treaty area which consists of crown land and I was trying to get some information..thanks


  6. Posted by Frank Fencepost on October 9, 2016 at 11:39 am

    This has been most entertaining & refreshing. I am ‘married in’ as they say to a wonderful First Nations lady with status. Being non-FN, obviously I cannot purchase a structure on Treaty land. We are both unconventional people & I am constantly looking for affordable, remote housing for us. We talked about trying a nomadic life on crown land near her reserve in North Coastal BC. This helps a lot. Thank you!


    • I’m glad you enjoyed this post Frank. It has been the most popular post on my blog, so there are lots of folks out there who are interested in this too. With all the stresses involved in modern society, many are looking for ways to get out of it, and back to a more natural, and quiet way of living. Personally, I feel so much more at home in the bush, although I think that making a life in a remote area is not an easy thing to do. We see a lot of Reality TV shows about such things now, but the reality is that moving from city life to remote cabin is just trading one set of hardships for another. I prefer to live in a small wilderness town, and just spend as much time in the remote bush as I can, that way I have some of the benefits of both.


  7. Posted by Bob Vautour on January 11, 2017 at 10:44 am

    Thank you for this post and the thread of input/questions. I am A Mi’kmaq from New Brunswick and wanted to build a trappers cabin to use while hunting, fishing and for a place to get away with my wife. This has all been very interesting, i will be scheduling a meeting with my band office to get as much info as possible in regards to legalities and the do’s and don’ts ect.


    • Hi Bob;

      Glad you found my post Cabins on Crown Land helpful. As I mentioned before, I originally wrote this post just because I was curious about all the cabins I was seeing during my explorations of the wilderness up here in the Elliot Lake area. At that time, I never really gave much thought to the possibilities of Indian Status. I was aware that Indians could build hunting camps on Crown Land but, the structures I was seeing didn’t seem to suggest that these were Indian hunting camps, and I just wanted to find out what other ways existed that people could build on Crown Land. You will need to find out the details of any treaties that your band has made with the government, in order to determine what you can build, and where you can build it. Of course, even though you have Indian Status now, which will give you certain legal rights, it doesn’t change the fact that remote cabins are often the targets of vandals. Now that ATV’s are widely used, people can get into even the most remote areas, so it’s real hard to find a place that would be safe to build. Many of the remote cabins I come across are fortified with steel bars, or mesh in the windows but, being so remote, that might not stop a determined trouble maker. After the deed is done, these people just disappear into the vast wilderness, and are rarely caught. Something to keep in mind, when you’re choosing a location.


  8. Posted by Daryl Gaskell on June 9, 2017 at 12:33 am

    Lol interesting’s all a catch 22.forest fires are a big one.if we all built cabins in the wilderness who would pay to run the cities the 1 percent would never let this happen


    • Hello Daryl;

      Thanks for your comment. Of course, forest fires are always a concern, and they can happen for many reasons. It’s not very likely that ‘we all’ are going to build cabins in the wilderness, many people love living in cities, I’m just not one of them. You are correct though, if a large number of people started to do this, there would be repercussions. The same could be said for anything else a large number of people might choose to do, that the ‘controllers’ don’t agree with. I’ve always found that the best way to avoid this is to just keep a low profile, and stay out of that ‘herd’ mentality.


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