Municipal Council Meetings Must be Open By Default in Ontario

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| Updated August 25, 2023

Section 239 of the Municipal Act states that all meetings must be open to the public, unless one of the limited number of exceptions apply that allow it to be closed.

Section 224 states that it is the role of council to ensure the accountability and transparency of the operations of the municipality, including the activities of the senior management of the municipality.

Section 239 (7) requires municipalities to record without note or comment all resolutions, decisions and other proceedings at a meeting of the body, whether it is closed to the public or not.

Why are open, recorded meetings important?

Transparent decision-making processes may be seen as part of foundation of the good municipal governance.

The judges on the 2007 Supreme Court case, London (City) v. RSJ Holdings Inc. noted “the public’s demand for more accountable municipal government” and stated that open meetings are essential to “robust democratic legitimacy” of local administrations. They also observed that section 239 of the Municipal Act, 2001 “was intended to increase public confidence in the integrity of local government by ensuring the open and transparent exercise of municipal power.

What are in-camera meetings?

In-camera meetings are confidential closed session meetings that can only occur if they meet an exemption requirement provided in the Municipal Act.

Municipalities typically only record minutes for in-camera meetings, and do not typically record audio or video as any notes, recordings, etc. of a closed session meeting would become a “record” for the purposes of the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“MFIPPA”) and subject to release.

All municipalities are required to have a closed meeting investigator, which acts as an independent body to review the legitimacy of in-camera discussions if someone files a complaint.

Submit a complaint about a closed meeting

If you believe that a municipal council meeting or part of a meeting was closed to the public improperly – ie. the reason doesn’t fall within one of the 14 exceptions – you can submit a complaint to the Ontario Ombudsman. Here are the previous reports, cases and submissions investigated by the Ombudsman.

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