Jay Chalke is the Ombudsperson for B.C. (BC Government photo)

Barring public from open council meetings exceeds authority: B.C. Ombudsperson

Orders affected the public attending council meetings

A government order allowing municipal councils to bar the public from attending open council meetings went beyond ministerial authority, the B.C. Ombudsperson has found.

Jay Chalke, B.C.’s Ombudsperson, has released an investigative report stating that Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general did not have the authority to issue two ministerial orders, that suspended or amended existing legislation.

The report called Extraordinary Times, Extraordinary Measures: Two Ministerial orders made under the Emergency Act in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, found that Ministerial Order 139 and 098 were illegal.

M139 has been the focus of Express stories recently, with Vanderhoof council citing that order as the reason for not allowing members of the public or media to attend or watch council meetings since the pandemic began in March.

M139 was rescinded last week and was replaced by a newer order after the Ombudsperson shared his draft report with the government.

Even though the new local government order is an improvement, Chalke said it still suspends or amends B.C. statutes which is the main issue the Ombudsperson had found in the original order (M139).

READ MORE: Public, media blocked from Vanderhoof council meetings for months

During a provincial emergency, the solicitor general has extraordinary powers, and Chalke said his office investigated “whether those extra powers include the ability for the minister to suspend or temporarily amend B.C. statutes and we concluded the minister does not have that authority, even in an emergency.”

READ MORE: New ministerial guidelines require B.C. councils to make public meetings accessible

Chalke said he recognizes that speed is important in responding to the pandemic; however, “while the intent and even the content of these orders may be worthy, that is not enough.”

“Every exercise of public authority in a democratic system must find its source in law,” Chalke stated in a June 22 press release.

Vanderhoof district council has said it will consider electronic broadcasts of open meetings, or other options, but that those could take weeks to implement.


Aman Parhar
Editor, Vanderhoof Omineca Express

aman.parhar@ominecaexpress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

City CouncilCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

No new COVID cases in Kootenay-Boundary

Interior Health says as of July 30, there were no additional cases in the previous two weeks

Plane crashes into Nelson supermarket parking lot

Pilot and passenger have minor injuries

Phase three presents new opportunities for Kootenay tourism

Message from MLA Michelle Mungall and MLA Katrine Conroy

Castlegar seniors asked to share their COVID experiences

Research project looks for information to help improve life for local seniors

B.C. records 146 new COVID-19 cases through long weekend

More that 28 people tested positive for the virus each day since Friday

Canucks tame Minnesota Wild 4-3 to even NHL qualifying series

J.T. Miller leads Vancouver with goal and an assist

COVID-19 vaccine efforts provide hope but no silver bullet to stop pandemic: Tam

There are more than two dozen vaccines for COVID-19 in clinical trials around the world

Interior Health reports nine new cases of COVID-19, 149 linked to Kelowna

Nine new cases were reported in the Interior Health region over the long weekend’s four reporting periods

Two people die in propane heated outdoor shower near Princeton

Couple was attending a long weekend gathering

Study shines light on what makes LGBTQ+ youth feel safe in a community

The study goes beyond looking at school or family supports

Alberta to require masks at schools this fall, but still no mandate in B.C.

B.C. students are also set to return to classrooms in September

Feds fund $2M for habitat conservation in the Kootenays

Kootenay Connect program to protect habitat for species at risk in four areas in the region

B.C. to allow customers to buy cannabis online for in-store pickup at private shops

Age verification will still be required inside the store

Most Read