Previous township practice of declaring “community events”
did not mean event coordinators
were covered by township’s insurance policy

A lengthy discussion took place at Champlain Township’s recent committee of the whole meeting as it reviewed its past practice of designating some events as community, or township events, with the belief that so doing would deem those events as insured by the township.

This, apparently, is not and has not been the case, council was told on March 3.

While council had not requested a special events policy, Champlain Township CAO Paula Knudsen explained to council that in fact, events previously designated as community events were not, in fact, protected by the township’s insurance policy. In those cases, the individual organizing the event would have been held liable, Knudsen said.

“The municipality is not involved in the organization of these events — we simply don’t have that level of involvement in (these) special events,” Knudsen said.

Champlain Township Mayor Normand Riopel reiterated this, saying that events with no municipal involvement were “situations out of our control”, meaning that there was no planning or organizational knowledge because no municipal staff were involved in those events.

West Hawkesbury councillor Gérard Miner asked what other municipalities were doing, as he wondered whether the situation was unique to the township’s insurer.

Knudsen said that while everyone agrees that the municipality is fortunate to have so many events organized by community members, the municipality has been bypassing the issue.

“If something were to happen, our insurer would ask if we were on site and if we were managing it?” Knudsen says.

Miner repeated that he would like to know what goes on in other municipalities.

Champlain Township Recreation and Parks Director Lisa Burroughs offered that larger municipalities do have a policy and smaller ones are developing them. She related that in Hawkesbury, for example, the municipality organizes the parade or they do events in partnerships, but they require third-party liability insurance when they work with organizatioins.

Vankleek Hill ward councillor Peter Barton acknowledged that this was a risk management challenge.

Burroughs listed some of the areas where a special events policy would assist the township, such as ensuring street closures are requested in time, ensuring the rules were followed concerning the serving of alcohol, food, etc.

“There are many departments involved (in special events),” Burroughs said, adding that it could actually help event coordinators to have one point of contact to give them the right directions, instead of them being sent from one department to another.

Barton suggested that one purpose of the new policy could be to make things easier for event organizers.

Burroughs added that food vendors need to have a permit and that there are requirements for petting zoos.

After hearing the reasoning behind the proposed policy, Barton said he wanted to be sure that the municipality was encouraging events.

“There may be some leniency at the end of the day — so that this is not a hurdle, but we are just putting our ducks in a row,” Barton said.

Miner also mentioned that the municipality had wanted to encourage those organizing events.

A list of events was contained in the agenda with the special events draft policy.

“A lot of those operators will require insurance,” said Champlain Township Senior Planner Jennifer Laforest said.

A discussion ensued about which events were for profit and which were not.

“We are saying that even if there is no income, they have to pay insurance,” Miner summed up.

L’Orignal councillor André Roy agreed that the municipality only needed the budget for an event and to know whether or not it made a profit if it was requesting municipal support.

“It would help you put the event into a better context. We’re not asking them to compete,” he said.

Going forward, Riopel said, “We would no longer provide the $5 million liability to the counties (for parades which use county roads).

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the Horse and Buggy Parade and the Parade of Lights are organized by Excellent Events. These events were historically declared community events by the municipality at the request of Excellent Events, with the belief that the designation provided insurance coverage.

Laforest said that there would be public consultation on the new policy, which exists only as a draft at this point.

Under the draft policy, applications for special events would be required for events that are open to the public; events which require temporary fixtures including the installation of tents, outdoor washrooms, sound amplification; events which require traffic management plans and; events which take place on public streets and/or municipal properties.

Insurance requirements would include minimum policy coverage of $5 million for any single occurrence, Champlain Township being named as an additional insured and inclusion of an indemnification clause to cover Champlain Township.

Applications for special events are not required for weddings, events located on the Vankleek Hill fairgrounds, public demonstrations or political rallies whose primary purpose is to draw attention to a specific political, religious or social issue; facility bookings and private events held indoors.