'High threshold' required to deny insurance coverage to protesting truckers, expert says

Freedom Convoy trucks
Protesters in the "Freedom Convoy" have been blocking downtown streets in Ottawa for nearly two weeks. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Commercial trucks involved in the ongoing protests in Ottawa are unlikely to lose their insurance coverage simply for being part of the demonstration, an industry expert says.

Despite some suggestions on social media that truckers in the convoy that’s been occupying the city’s central core for nearly two weeks could be denied claims if their rigs were involved in an incident, insurance broker Matthew Carr says there would have to be clear proof of illegal activity for any denial of a claim to stick.

“I don’t see it,” Carr, president of Gifford Carr Insurance Group in Kanata, told OBJ on Wednesday. 

“Unless you were using that vehicle illegally – whether you were drunk or stunt driving or something along those lines – I don’t see a situation where an insurance company could deny a loss or cancel coverage outright just based on (being part of a protest). That’s a pretty high threshold that they would have to get to.”

Carr was commenting in the wake of a Twitter discussion in which a poster who claimed to be a former underwriter argued that “by partaking in an illegal occupation,” commercial trucks in the demonstration against vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 mandates are violating the terms of their policies.

'War activities'

The Ontario Automobile Policy states that insurance companies can deny claims for losses caused by “war activities” that include insurrection and rebellion.

While some Ottawa public officials have referred to the protests as an “insurrection,” Carr said drivers of rigs in the protest wouldn’t immediately be barred from driving them even if the “Freedom Convoy” was deemed to meet the legal definition of such an event.

Insurers are usually required to give 15 days’ notice before formally cancelling a policy, typically via a registered letter delivered to the operator’s home, he noted. 

“You’re getting into the weeds of grasping for something to just get people to move along because of the inconvenience of this,” Carr said.

A website called convoytraitors.ca is now posting the names of companies with trucks in the protest zone, along with photos of the rigs involved. 

Carr said that while some insurance providers might not be comfortable offering coverage to drivers who took part in the protests and were later identified via the website, companies can’t legally deny quotes to a licensed operator without clear evidence of Highway Traffic Act violations or other illegal activity that would have to be gathered retroactively.

“That would be a logistical nightmare to try to pull all that together,” he said.

Josée Brisson, the owner of Josée Brisson Insurance in Orléans, said it’s “impossible” to provide a blanket answer as to whether a commercial truck would be denied coverage for taking part in the demonstrations.  

“Insurance matters are all assessed based on a very specific incident that then needs to be measured against the policy that they carry,” she said in an email.