The Ontario Court of Justice held that a road on a remote Indian reserve in northern Ontario was a “road” for the purposes of s. 259 of the Criminal Code. The Court therefore convicted the accused Dunsford for operating a motor vehicle while prohibited.
The accused argued that the road on the Pikangikum reserve in northern Ontario was not a “road” within the meaning of s. 259 of the Criminal Code, as it lies wholly within the reserve and does not connect to the provincial road system. The term “road” in s. 259(1) is modified by the words “or other public place”. The Court rejected this argument. Fraser J. noted that alcoholism is rampant on the reserve, and that impaired drivers represent a significant risk. He concluded that a narrow interpretation of “road” in s. 259 would deprive the sentencing court of a critical sentencing tool. Parliament could not have intended to deprive the residents of Indian reserves of this sentencing tool. The gravel roads of the Pikangikum reserve therefore constitute a “road” for the purposes of section 259. The accused was found guilty as charged.