Residents of Muskoka launched a $900,000,000
class action against the Ontario Ministry of Natural
Resources and Forestry ("MNRF") on September 14, 2016.
They allege damages related to "[MNRF's] failure to
adequately manage and lower the water levels of Lake Joseph, Lake
Muskoka and Lake Rousseau... which resulted in significant property
damage to the Plaintiff."
The residents claim that the MNRF was at all times responsible
for the management of the water levels through the development,
implementation, enforcement and operation of the Muskoka River
Water Management Plan ("the Plan"). The Plan establishes
a "High Water Zone" beyond which damage may start to
In early 2016, the claim alleges that Ontario, through the MNRF
failed to follow the standards established by the Plan by allowing
the "Normal Operating Range" and the "High Water
Level" to be exceeded, causing flood situations on the Muskoka
lakes in March and April 2016.
The claim alleges that Ontario owed a duty of care to the
plaintiffs, including that it had an obligation to prevent or
minimize flooding resulting from the operation of its water control
works; its failure to do so was a breach of its statutory duty.
In news reports the MNRF is noted as saying that
while sympathetic to those who suffered damage, severe weather
conditions were out of its control, with a spring melt that was
earlier and faster than normal this year. In a letter from then Minister Bill Mauro, the
Ministry indicated that ministry dams were not designed to be flood
control structures and don't have the capacity to store or hold
This type of claim will no doubt become more common as climate
change causes more extreme weather events. Without insurance
coverage, residents will look to provincial and
municipal governments to cover losses if they fail to keep pace
with the needed changes to manage their infrastructure and respond
to these events.
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