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ATV law exemption was desire of rural communities, says Yukon gov't

The Yukon government says small Yukon communities asked for enforcement to be relaxed for off-road vehicles, but rules could be restored if desired.

Government says small Yukon communities asked for enforcement to be relaxed for off-road vehicles

ATVs are a common way of getting around Old Crow. (Karen McColl/CBC)

The Yukon government was responding to requests from rural communities when it exempted them from new rules for off-road vehicles, according to Elaine Schiman, the Director for Cabinet Communications in the premier's office.

Changes to road laws for all-terrain-vehicles and snowmobiles in Yukon took effect last November, don't apply to Old Crow, Pelly Crossing, Ross River, Keno City, Beaver Creek, Carcross, Burwash Landing, Destruction Bay or Upper Liard.

Police weren't aware of the exemption until last month, when a territorial government lawyer withdrew a ticket that had been issued by the RCMP in Old Crow, said Staff Sgt. Brad Kaeding.

Yukon RCMP Staff Sgt. Brad Kaeding Kaeding said tickets cannot be given to ATV drivers on streets within 8 rural communities. (CBC)

Kaeding said the RCMP's understanding is that tickets cannot be given to ATV drivers on streets within those eight communities, but they can still be issued to drivers on territorial highways that pass though the communities.

RCMP spokesperson Coralee Reid later clarified that officers can and will lay criminal charges for dangerous driving. But the dangerous driving law seems to suggest that there must be more than just speeding or going through a stop sign to be considered criminal.

Section 249 (1) (a) of the Criminal Code says it's an offence to operate "a motor vehicle in a manner that is dangerous to the public, having regard to all the circumstances, including the nature, condition and use of the place at which the motor vehicle is being operated and the amount of traffic that at the time is or might reasonably be expected to be at that place."

Double standard?

The changes amount to a double standard for safety in Yukon communities, said Lois Moorcroft, who is running for re-election as the NDP MLA in Copperbelt South.

Lois Moorcroft, NDP candidate in Copperbelt South, says the exemption amounts to a double standard.

"It is a serious concern that when people are driving all-terrain-vehicles or skidoos or dirt bikes on roads and in communities that there should be safety standards that apply," Moorcroft said.

She added the RCMP should have authority to issue tickets for safety violations in all communities, as soon as possible.

That won't happen, said Schiman, who noted that a legislative committee that toured the Yukon in 2010 heard requests for the law to be eased.

"We think the legislative changes did get it right in terms of what we heard Yukoners tell us they wanted to see. That said, we're always open to hearing from rural Yukoners and Yukon communities, and would be open to considering some adjustments in the future, if warranted," Schiman said.

The governing Yukon Party MLAs spoke in favour of amending the law in the legislature in November, 2014 saying it was more in line with Yukon lifestyles.

"Should somebody going to the grocery store in an unincorporated community be required to wear a helmet, or should they be allowed to wear a hat or ball cap or something like what you see every day in the community of Old Crow or Ross River?" former MLA Currie Dixon said, "these are the questions that we have to ask." 

RCMP officers will be trained over the coming months on how the changes affect their enforcement of the law, according to justice department spokesperson, Dan Cable.

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