The Ontario Chainsaw Massacre – Impacts of the Ice Storm Persist

It would seem like ice storm damage to the urban forests of southern Ontario is yesterday’s news. Damage done, power restored, and fallen limbs and trees cleaned up. In actuality, there is still a chance for this devastating event to reap additional carnage on trees and the people who love them.

bad_pruningWith the first spell of above-zero temperatures this past week, homeowners will be looking to their backyards and their damaged but surviving trees. Many will be (or at least should be) calling up a local Arborist to address storm damage. But unlike some other Canadian jurisdictions, anyone with a chainsaw can call themselves an Arborist in Ontario.

What this means is that after major disturbances like the ice storm, the arboricultural equivalent of ambulance-chasing lawyers will be going door-to-door offering their ‘services’ to the uninformed homeowner.

This is bad for a number of reasons. Poor pruning by untrained workers may potentially kill or disfigure a beloved backyard tree that would have otherwise survived its wounds.  But more importantly, this is safety issue – as the Ontario Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) states: “potential hazards and tree problems are not always obvious to the untrained eye.” And what’s worse, many of these workers are uninsured and untrained, and homeowners are liable if they injure themselves on the job.

bad_pruning3This whole situation bucks the trend in Canada, where trades and professions (doctors, dentists, lawyers, or even foresters) are certified or accredited by a professional association.  Provinces can subsequently regulate who can work in that profession or trade, thereby ensuring high standards of practice. This has indeed already happened in Manitoba, where Arborists are certified by a professional association (ISA in this case) and licensed to practice by the province.

With our changing climate, ice storms and other such calamites are on the rise.  It is time for Ontario to regulate the practice of arboriculture. Stay tuned to Tree Talks for more on this on-going debate.


James Steenberg                                     Jose Rubio Lazo

Ontario Urban Forest Council                  Certified Arborist Inc.


Tree Talks are a regular blast of short, sweet, and timely stories about the urban forest, created by the OUFC to educate Ontarians on some key issues. If you are interested in becoming an OUFC member and/or submitting a story, please contact us.