Duty to Safeguard Opening in Ice

Duty to Safeguard Opening in Ice

The duty to safeguard an opening in ice is outlined in section 263(1) of the Criminal Code.

A person commits the offence of duty to safeguard opening in ice when they make a hole or cause a hole to be made in ice that is open to the public, and fails to discharge their legal duty to guard the hole, or make it known that the hole exists so as to prevent people from falling inside.


Person A trips and falls while ice-skating on a deep lake often frequented by avid ice skaters and creates a large hole in the ice. Embarrassed by this, person A leaves quickly and does not tell anyone about the hole. Person B later falls into this hole made by person A and drowns.

Person C drills a large hole in the ice on a popular ice-fishing lake but does not cover the hole or place any structures, signs, or markers around the hole after they leave.

Offence Specific Defence(s)

Private Ice

Where the opening is made on ice that is located on private property or ice otherwise not open to or frequented by the public, the person who created that opening may not have completed the offence of duty to safeguard opening in ice.

Unaware of the Opening

Where the person does not realize that they have made an opening in the ice, they may not have completed the offence of duty to safeguard opening in ice.


Where someone accidentally falls into the opening despite the person who made it providing them with a clear and sufficient warning, the person who made the opening has not completed the offence of duty to safeguard.

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