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

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M139 was rescinded last week and was replaced by a newer order after the Ombudsperson shared his draft report with the government.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

Central Okanagan Public Schools administration office in Kelowna. (File photo)
COVID-19 confirmed in 5 more Central Okanagan schools

All people who tested positive for the virus are self isolating at home

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 70 new cases overnight

The total number of cases in the region is now at 1,426

Cranbrook business and property owners are encouraged to flush their water lines ahead of reopening. All it takes is running the cold water tap for several minutes. (Cranbrook Townsman file)
UPDATE: Water advisory issued on Westside

Westshore Estates leak repair causes need to flush system

KLO Middle School. (Google Maps)
KLO Middle School community member tests positive for COVID-19

According to SD23, the individual is self-isolating at home

A worker at Kelowna Airport has tested positive for COVID-19. (File)
Kelowna airport worker tests positive for COVID-19

Individual, who works as a screener, was asked to self-isolate, at which time they tested positive

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

Penticton Law Courts
Bail hearing for Penticton man charged with sex assault, forcible confinement

Robert Sauve is facing more than 10 criminal charges

Revelstoke RCMP warn of scam after two people targeted in one day. (Black Press file photo)
Revelstoke RCMP warn of scammer pulling at heart strings

Two people in Revelstoke targeted in one day by person posing as a loved one

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
RCMP investigate suspected arson at Shuswap hunting camp

Suspicious fire took place by Scotch Creek forest service road on Oct. 24

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

St. James Anglican Church, Armstrong, B.C. (Google Maps).
Prayer at North Okanagan council meetings a violation of religious neutrality: study

New study found 23 municipalities held prayer sessions at inaugural meetings in 2018, in violation of a Supreme Court decision

An assault charge has been filed after a 10-year-old boy was allegedly struck with a watermelon at a Shuswap campsite in August . (File photo)
Alberta woman facing assault charge after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Shuswap campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A Shuswap couple reported having fallen victim to a family emergency telephone scam. (File image)
Shuswap couple fall victim to family emergency scam

Person claiming to be couple’s son said he was injured and in jail

Most Read