Written By: Brandon Pedersen and Cody Malloy, Student-at-Law
This Ontario Court of Appeal decision stems from an incident in which Michael Beaudin, the respondent, was seriously injured in a motocross competition when he was driving his dirt bike. Mr. Beaudin is a paraplegic as a result of his injuries. The main issue before the Court of Appeal was whether Beuadin’s dirt bike was exempt from the insurance requirement under the Off-Road Vehicles Act (ORVA).
Background – the LAT and Divisional Court
Beaudin was catastrophically injured at a closed course (i.e., a racetrack or motosport park) motocross competition sanctioned by the Canadian Motorsport Racing Competition (CMRC) on July 9, 2017. The appellant, Travelers Insurance Company of Canada (Travelers), had an automobile insurance policy with Mr. Beaudin, but the dirt bike was not directly insured under the policy. Mr. Beaudin applied for accident benefits (ABs) through his policy with Travelers, but his application was denied on the basis that the collision was not an “accident” within the meaning of the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule (SABS) because the dirt bike is not an “automobile” within the meaning of section 224(1) of the Insurance Act (IA). The License Appeal Tribunal (LAT) held in favour of Mr. Beaudin, finding that the dirt bike did constitute an automobile for the purposes of the IA. Travelers appealed to the Divisional Court, who dismissed the insurer’s appeal.
The insurer appealed to the Court of Appeal, raising three grounds:
- The Divisional Court erred by concluding that this Court in Bensonhad already ruled that only sponsored closed course competitions are exempt from the ORVA.
- The Divisional Court erred in accepting the Associate Chair’s conclusion that the purpose of the ORVA is to promote universal insurance coverage for all drivers of off-road vehicles. And
- The Divisional Court “erred in failing to properly interpret the ORVAwithin the entire legislative scheme of auto insurance.”
Section 3(1) of SABS defines an “accident” as “an incident in which the use or operation of an automobile directly causes an impairment or directly causes damage to any prescription eyewear, denture, hearing aid, prosthesis or other medical or dental device”.
SABS does not define an “automobile”, so the Court applied the following three-step test:
- Is the vehicle an automobile in ordinary parlance?
- If not, is it defined as an automobile in the wording of the insurance policy?
- If not, does the vehicle fall within any enlarged definition of automobile in a relevant statute? 
The Court determined that steps one and two did not apply in this case. The Court therefore looked to section 224(1) of the IA, which defines an automobile as:
- a motor vehicle required under any Act to be insured under a motor vehicle liability policy, and
- a vehicle prescribed by regulation to be an automobile[.]
Section 15(1) of the ORVA mandates that off-road vehicles must be insured in accordance with a motor vehicle liability policy. Section 2(1)(5) of Regulation 863 under the ORVA exempts “off-road vehicles driven or exhibited at a closed course competition or rally sponsored by a motorcycle association” from the ORVA, and thus its section 15(1) insurance requirement. Section 1 of Regulation 863 defines a “motorcycle association” as “a motorcycle club or association that has or is affiliated with a motorcycle club or association that has a published constitution and a membership roster of more than twenty-four persons”.
Court of Appeal
Justice Coroza, writing for the Court of Appeal, addressed the issues in the Court’s decision as follows.
Issue 1: Did the Divisional Court err by concluding that this Court in Benson had ruled that only sponsored closed course competitions are exempt from the ORVA?
The Court held that the Divisional Court did make an error, but it does not have an impact on this appeal. In Benson, the Court of Appeal made brief comments about the interpretation of section 2(1)(5) of Regulation 863, but an interpretation of the section was not put at issue in the case, so it was improper for the Divisional Court to think that the Court of Appeal had firmly ruled on interpreting section 2(1)(5). This error was found to be inconsequential because the issue was squarely before the court in Beaudin.
Issue 2: Did the Divisional Court err in holding that the purpose of the ORVA is to promote universal insurance coverage for all drivers of off-road vehicles?
The Court found that the Divisional Court did not make an error. The Divisional Court did not hold that the purpose of the ORVA is to promote universal insurance coverage for all drivers of off-road vehicles, they held that the ORVA forms one part of a comprehensive legislative scheme for automobile insurance in Ontario. In paragraph 54 of the decision, Justice Coroza noted that “any interpretation of the ORVA must keep in mind that it is just one piece of a comprehensive scheme of automobile insurance and that it must be read harmoniously with other legislation that makes up that scheme”. In contrast to Travelers’ submissions, the Divisional Court found that the objective of the ORVA is to protect innocent victims of automobile accidents, encourage safe driving of off-road vehicles and provide a method of control and identification of off-road vehicles.
Issue 3: Did the Divisional Court err in failing to properly interpret the ORVA within the entire legislative scheme of auto insurance?
The Court found that the Divisional Court correctly held that only sponsored closed course competitions and rallies are exempt from the provisions of the ORVA in considering the context and purpose of the entire legislative scheme. Justice Coroza reasoned that the Ontario legislature logically rooted the exemption in question based on the facts that motorcycle associations would implement basic safety protocols and would promote the control and identification of the motorcycles.
With regards to safety protocols, this rationale is supported by the fact that the ORVA requires drivers to wear helmets and must be at least 12 years of age. There are only narrow exemptions to these ORVA safety provisions, such as how off-road vehicle drivers are not required to wear a helmet if they are driving on land “occupied” by the owner of the off-road vehicle. The Court also considered that motorcycle associations would enforce safety equipment rules. Lastly, the evidence before the LAT demonstrated that organized motorcycle competitions have some insurance protection for participants.
Ultimately, even though Mr. Beaudin’s event was somewhat “organized”, the LAT determined that it was not sponsored by a motorcycle association and this finding was not appealable.
The Court found that Mr. Beaudin’s dirt bike was not exempt from the ORVA. Since the competition was not sponsored by a motorcycle association within the meaning of section 2(1)(5) of Regulation 863, it did not fit the list of narrow exemptions to the ORVA section 15(1) insurance requirement. Therefore, Mr. Beuadin’s dirt bike was determined to be an “automobile” within the meaning of SABS, since it met IA section 224(1)’s definition of an “automobile”. As such, the appeal was dismissed.
 See: Adams v. Pineland Amusements Ltd., 2007 ONCA 844, 88 O.R. (3d) 321, at para. 7, and Benson v. Belair Insurance Company Inc., 2019 ONCA 840, 148 O.R. (3d) 589, at para. 25, leave to appeal refused,  S.C.C.A. No. 529,  S.C.C.A. No. 510 (“Benson”)