Casual Legal: Bylaw ticket vs. Order to Remedy

By Taylor Thiesen
Reynolds Mirth Richards Farmer LLP
Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Service Provider

Municipalities have several options when it comes to dealing with bylaw contraventions made by residents. These include issuing a violation ticket and issuing an order to remedy contraventions (“Order to Remedy”). One option may be more effective than the other, depending on the circumstances.

Violation ticket

A violation ticket is accompanied by a fine. Most bylaw fines are not especially high, but they can serve as effective deterrents. However, if a person who receives a ticket pleads “not guilty” and attends court for trial, the municipality must call witnesses at trial to prove that the person committed the violation. The case must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” (the same standard applicable in criminal cases), which is a much higher standard than in civil matters, where a case only needs to be proven “on a balance of probabilities.” In practice, this means that if there are flaws or gaps in the evidence, there is a very good chance the person will be acquitted.

Perhaps more importantly, a violation ticket generally does not allow a court to issue other remedies besides the specified fine. So, if a person is violating a bylaw on an ongoing basis, violation tickets do not give the municipality or the court any special power to put a stop to the ongoing violation.

Order to Remedy

In contrast, an Order to Remedy (issued by a municipality under Section 545 of the Municipal Government Act) can:

  • Direct a person to stop doing something that contravenes a bylaw or the Municipal Government Act
  • Direct the person to take action to remedy the contravention
  • State a deadline by which the person must comply
  • State that the municipality will remedy the contravention itself, if the person does not comply by the deadline.

If the person fails to comply, the municipality can obtain a court order which directs the person to stop contravening the bylaw, and confirms that the municipality can take its own steps to remedy the contravention and charge the costs to the person responsible (and add them to the tax roll, if the person does not pay). This type of court order is often easier to obtain than a conviction on a bylaw charge, because the court application is based on affidavit evidence drafted by a lawyer and the violation only needs to be proven on a balance of probabilities. Furthermore, on granting the order, the court will usually order that the person pay a portion of the municipality’s legal costs, which does not happen when a person is convicted on a bylaw ticket.

A violation ticket is an appropriate way to deal with a single violation. For an an ongoing violation, or continual instances of the same violation coming from a single property – particularly if the person has been warned and has not corrected the violation – an Order to Remedy is often a more effective approach.

To access Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Helpline, Alberta Municipalities members can call toll-free to 1-800-661-7673 or send an casuallegal [at] (email) to reach the municipal legal experts at Reynolds Mirth Richards and Farmer LLP. For more information on the Casual Legal Service, please call 310-MUNI (6864) or send an riskcontrol [at] (email) to speak to Alberta Municipalities Risk Management staff. Any Regular or Associate member of Alberta Municipalities can access the Casual Legal Service.

DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to provide information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. You should seek the advice of legal counsel to address your specific set of circumstances. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law may cause the information in this article to be outdated.