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I am in process of immigrating from Russia to Canada. While I've fallen out of... Well, everything that includes movement... I have plans to resume wilderness trips after I finish immigration processes.

Now, I'm not sure about what law states in Russia, but the fact is, you can get to rural area, go to any forest, and start gathering whatever you like (I mean mushrooms and berries), cut down trees for a hovel or fires and generally just do anything. Same with bodies of water - you can get on the boat and fish just about anywhere. Not sure about hunting, never tried it (and don't want to).

I'm talking about general areas, not protected territories, and "personal" scale (fishing poles and spinnings, maybe nets, not dynamite). The things is, Russia has a lot of rural population that lives like they would before the idea of conservation existed.

So, before I became a couch potato, I greatly enjoyed being in the wild, in a described way, and I feel like what is described as "camping" in "civilized" world is too civilized for my tastes - while driving a car to a well-equipped spot, with parking, toilets and designated spots for tents can be a fun family activity, I would really miss more "wild" activities.

However, I'm not sure that in Canada you can just walk some 20 km to a lake in a forest, cut down some firewood and fish up you dinner without breaking any laws (and I wouldn't want to break any - I understand that conservation is important and wouldn't want to hurt nature).

So, what (legal) options are available in Canada for some camping trips that don't involve designated camping spots (or involve them in some manner that doesn't make it a "like in a hotel, only in tent" type of thing).

To clarify, I will first try to settle in Ottawa (Ontario), though if that doesn't work out my next target is Calgary (Alberta). Russia is big too, I'm not averse to traveling up to 24 hours to a "base of operations" before going on the actual trip, at least on vacation. On long weekend the road probably shouldn't take more than 4 hours. That makes any province open game, I believe.

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In Ontario, the relevant terminology is "Crown Land". This is land that is not owned by any private entity, and is essentially free for use, however there are some rules. Most of the province is crown land, and from Ottawa you can access it quite readily.

With regards to fishing, fishing in any body of water (Except privately owned/stocked facilities) requires a fishing license. These are very cheap (under $20 a year for a "conservation" license) and include rules about what species can be harvested and in what quantities. The province is broken into regions and the rules may vary between regions. All of this information is easily available from whereever you obtain your license. You can do so online, but might prefer to hit a local fishing shop in Ottawa or the region you will be fishing in to chat and get some local knowledge.

For camping, I believe you can camp anywhere on crown land, but there may be set-back requirements from roads. I am not sure about cutting of trees to build a shelter, I believe any structure must be temporary in nature, a simple wood cabin may be still be considered permanent. However, realistically any action of enforcement is going to be complaint based. If your activities aren't extreme and aren't bothering anyone, you could easily get away with building a simple structure.

You can find full details for Ontario crown land usage on the Ontario Government website.

https://www.ontario.ca/page/fishing

https://www.ontario.ca/page/camping-crown-land

https://www.ontario.ca/page/crown-land

  • Maybe worth mentioning provincial parks as well, since camping and such are pretty inexpensive there. And I'd throw in Gatineau too. – Kate Gregory Sep 6 '18 at 23:16
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It really depends on which province you are moving to and how far you are willing to go from urban centers.

First off, stay away from any private property. While my activities can sometimes bring me to cross some private land, I am only passing through on foot and there will be no trace of my presence. Using motor vehicles, cutting wood, gathering edibles is never a good idea.

On public land, there are different options. My experience is in the province of Quebec where in all provincial parks, the activities you describe are prohibited. In faunal reserves, where the main goal is hunting and fishing, outside of hunting season, pretty much everything can be done as long as you are not spending the night. There is usually logging activities anyway so conservation isn't a big concern. Logging patches are great spots to gather berries.

Then there is public land without specific statutes. Those are pretty much open game. Unless you are going across the 4000sq. meters of someone's lease, it's open to the public, but from what I understand, it has to be a temporary use.

Public land that's not a park or reserve of some sort is not easy to find close to large urban centers. For example, in Quebec, there is almost none south of St-Laurent river. North, it's usually 2h away, or more. Last weekend, I drove 1300km north close to the 52nd parallel and the destination was still a nature reserve with strict regulations.

My best advice is to look for legislation specific to the province you are moving to and stay away from private land.

Here's a map of public land VS private land in Quebec. You'll notice it's all very heterogenous. Light blue is public, beige is private.

There is also the question of aboriginal rights. First Nations have rights that supersede other citizen's. This might make things more complicated in some areas.

  • I've added info on province to the question. So, tldr - unless someone owns the place or unless it's a reserve of some kind, everything is fine? – Misamoto Sep 6 '18 at 15:54
  • I would say everything is fine in practice. But I don't know enough about other provinces to have a definitive answer for them. – Gabriel C. Sep 6 '18 at 16:13
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There are many activities one can do on Crown Land in Canada. The price of permits and particular rules will change from province to province.

For example in British Columbia one may participate in the following activities:

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So, what (legal) options are available in Canada for some camping trips that don't involve designated camping spots

In Algonquin Provincial Park (that's about a 3-hour drive from Ottawa) I thought it was called "wilderness camping" but it seems to be called backcountry camping. Even then you're only allowed to camp at designated camp sites but the sites are off-road and unserviced -- so they are "designated camping spots" but not "like in a hotel, only in tent".

You're not meant to cut trees and so on. You'd bring your own equipment, i.e. tent -- and possibly fuel and so on too -- some people take canoes instead of hiking. You buy firewood pre-cut inside the park (and maybe aren't allowed to bring wood from outside). Or I guess you can bring your own fuel, charcoal or gas or solid fuel tablets.

Apparently when backcountry camping you are allowed to collect dead wood to burn -- so maybe that's all you want. You might not find any (dead wood lying around) at the popular road-accessible campgrounds, but you're not asking about those.

You reserve-in-advance any campsite in any Provincial Park -- you probably should or must reserve, because the popular parks get booked up well in advance and so do popular dates i.e. the various "long weekends" (Victoria Day, Canada Day, and so on). There's a web site, you can see what sites are still available on any date, and book online. https://reservations.ontarioparks.com/Home.aspx This web site lets you choose "Backcountry" as a reservation types, it looks like about a dozen of the 6 dozen parks support "back country" camping. I'd guess that the rules (of what you can do) might or might not vary from park to another -- the less popular ones (which are probably the ones further north) might be more permissive, I don't know.

If you're in Ottawa you might look into camping in Quebec, too, since you're already at (the Ottawa river is) the provincial border.

Somebody mentioned the "Gatineau" too in a comment, that's really local to "the Ottawa Region". I've only day-tripped and skied there, so I'd try Google for that, Gatineau camping -- the Quebec web sites might display French-first but (if you don't read French) they most likely have an English version, see e.g. the top-right corner of this web page. I imagine that anything in the Gatineau is likely to be very popular (i.e. need booking in advance), perhaps more than Algonquin, so more regulated. I think it's run by the "National Capital Commission" which is maybe federal rather than provincial. I guess it will be pleasant unless you don't like neighbours or something, but not backcountry, I think you're meant to stay on the official trails there.

Actually I haven't seen Canadian forest or woods (or brush) that you could easily walk through except on a designated pre-prepared trail (or in winter on skis if the snow is really deep) -- I don't know what it's like in Russia -- I think that in somewhere like Southern Ontario you're likely to be on a hiking trail or going by canoe (or kayak or whatever) and (if you're paddling) perhaps preferring to avoid paddling upstream by staying on lakes.

The things is, Russia has a lot of rural population that lives like they would before the idea of conservation existed

No that doesn't sound to me like a "provincial park".

However, I'm not sure that in Canada you can just walk some 20 km to a lake in a forest, cut down some firewood and fish up you dinner without breaking any laws

Yes I'd guess you can do that in a park (depending on how good the fishing is) -- except cutting firewood, though you can collect dead wood -- walking on a hiking trail and booking a camp-site.

Or a lot of backcountry campsites might be intended for access by canoe, not on a hiking trail but e.g. on an island in a lake -- islands are good camping-spots.

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