Volunteers in BC Parks

ORC and FMCBC met with BC Parks to discuss volunteers working in parks

On February 8, 2011, Brian Wood (FMCBC President), Alex Wallace (FMCBC Trails Committee Co-Chair) and Jeremy McCall (Executive Director for Outdoor Recreation Council of BC) went to Victoria to meet with Tessa Graham, the Acting Executive Director, Parks and Protected Areas, BC Parks to get a firm answer relating to liability insurance protection for the volunteers doing trail work and maintenance in BC Parks.  This meeting was a follow up to a larger meeting held on September 24th, 2010 with Scott Benton who was the Executive Director Regional Operations for BC Parks at that time.  The September meeting was organized by ORC and attended by Wallace and Patrick Harrison (FMCBC Trails Committee Co-Chair).  Click here for a report on the September 24, 2010 meeting.

On February 9, 2011 McCall sent a letter to Graham to confirm details from their meeting on February 8, 2011.  Graham sent a response to McCall’s letter on February 23, 2011.

Graham’s letter outlines how individuals volunteering in BC Parks are covered by Commercial General Liability Insurance and Accidental Death and Dismemberment Insurance provided by the Province (coverage summaries can be viewed here), but stipulates that the coverage is only valid if the volunteers have signed a Volunteer Agreement with BC Parks which specifies the nature, location and timing of the work.

Some clarification is still needed and McCall has currently taken the lead on this and reported back to the FMCBC via email on March 17, 2011 with the following information:

To ORC’s Member Organizations

On September 24, 2010, ORC arranged a meeting with Scott Benton, who was at that time the Executive Director of BC Parks, to try to get some certainty about the ground rules for volunteers carrying out work such as trail maintenance in BC Parks. About a dozen ORC members attended the meeting. The most significant piece of information which Mr Benton told us that day was that the BC Parks Volunteer Program and manual had effectively been discontinued in 2002.

We raised questions about the following subjects:

  • ·         The role of volunteers
  • ·         Responsiveness of BC Parks personnel to volunteers.
  • ·         Protocols for communication between volunteers and BC Parks
  • ·         Requirements for supervision of volunteers by BC Parks personnel
  • ·         Guidelines for volunteer involvement
  • ·         Coverage of third party liability for volunteers and for directors and officers of NGOs
  • ·         Work planning and scope of work undertaken by volunteers
  • ·         Training of volunteers
  • ·         Use of power tools by volunteers
  • ·         Trail standards


Thanks to a follow-up meeting we organized with Tessa Graham, the new Acting Executive Director of BC Parks, in Victoria on February 8, and follow-up correspondence from that meeting we now have definitive answers to most of our questions.

  • ·         Individual volunteers who sign an Individual Volunteer Agreement will be covered by insurance when they undertake work in BC Parks.
  • ·         The insurance coverage is $2 million per occurrence for general liability with certain additional provisions, and $40,000 for Accidental Death & Dismemberment with certain provisions regarding partial or total disability payments.
  • ·         There is no insurance coverage for the Directors and Officers of NGOs which organize volunteers to work in BC Parks.
  • ·         So far we have been unable to obtain copies of the current version of the Individual Volunteer Agreement. BC Parks have advised us that it is under review.
  • ·         Individual Volunteer Agreements will generally be for short, finite terms to address a specific task, though they could be set up for longer term seasonal work.
  • ·         The level of supervision will depend on the nature of the work. The implication appears to be that most work will need to be supervised in some way. Only BC Parks personnel can use power tools.
  • ·         Individual Volunteer Agreements must be approved by Regional Managers of BC Parks.

While we are pleased to finally have some clarity on most of these issues, ORC is disappointed that the role of NGOs will necessarily be constrained by the lack of liability insurance coverage for their Directors and Officers if they organize groups of volunteers to work in BC Parks. Of course they can rely on their own liability coverage or Directors & Officers Errors & Omissions insurance if they wish, but they may not choose not to expose themselves or their organizations to those additional risks.

By way of contrast to the position at BC Parks, we have learned that NGOs which take responsibility for specific recreation sites and trails are covered under the Forest Recreation Insurance Program (FRIP). When such an NGO enters into a Recreation Site or Trail Agreement with MNRO the NGO is covered by a $2 million general liability policy. This appears to be the type of policy that BC Parks needs for some situations.

ORC will continue to work with BC Parks and the Province’s Risk Management Branch to see whether the FRIP approach can be extended to BC Parks when the situation warrants it.

If members have questions about any of the above issues I will either do my best to answer them or I will get answers from the appropriate agencies.

Jeremy McCall

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