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M139 was rescinded last week and was replaced by a newer order after the Ombudsperson shared his draft report with the government.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

Just Posted

Parking time is to be limited in one spot on 9th. (Houston Today photo)
District seeks grant to update bylaws

And decides on 15-minute parking

Bench installation on 9th Street is another sign the project is nearing completion. (Houston Today photo)
Progress being made on 9th Street finish

District aiming for June completion

File photo
Mental health checks proving valuable

Police officer and nurse team up each week

The two billboards for the Cow Moose Sign project arrived in Topley last week with Justin Cradock, owner of Pitbull Trucking Ltd. and the area is now getting prepared for installation. (Dan Simmons photo/Houston Today)
Cow Moose sign project billboards arrive in Topley

Two billboards for the Cow Moose Sign project have arrived in Topley… Continue reading

File photo
Snow clearing changes would cost money, survey finds

Council being asked to give direction

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Police are at Ecole Mount Prevost Elementary but the students have been evacuated. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Gardner finds buried explosives, sparking evacuation of Cowichan school

Students removed from school in an ‘abundance of caution’

A COVID-19 patient receives oxygen outside a hospital in Jammu, India, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP/Channi Anand)
B.C. donates $500K to Red Cross COVID-19 relief efforts in India

The money will provide oxygen cylinders and ambulances for patients in communities grappling with the virus

Superintendent Aaron Paradis, community services officer with the Surrey RCMP, during a media availability about a recent drug bust in Port Coquitlam. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Police seize 13 million ‘potentially fatal doses’ of pure fentanyl at B.C. drug lab

The evidence was seized at large, illicit drug manufacturing site in Port Coquitlam

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth debates the province’s latest measure to control crime, March 10, 2021. The legislation allows police to impound vehicles used to transport weapons and further restricts sale of vehicle and body armour. (B.C. legislature video)
B.C. seeking ways to ‘name and shame’ gangsters, minister says

Mike Farnworth appeals to family members to talk to police

Jonathan Prest had to climb way up to the top of a dead red cedar tree to rescue a terrified cat, but he made it up and down successfully. (Facebook photos)
Tree cutter rescues cat stuck 100 feet up a dead and dried-out cedar

Jonathan Prest put himself in extreme peril to get a terrified cat out of a dangerous situation

The Greater Victoria School District continues to face backlash over its wording and approach to Indigenous learners in its 2021-2022 budget talks. (Black Press Media file photo)
School district’s approach to Indigenous learners leaves Victoria teachers ‘disgusted’

Backlash grows over ‘pattern of colonial thinking permeating the leadership’

Italian-Canadian prisoners at the Kananaskis prisoner of war camp in Alberta. (University of Calgary/Contributed)
Italian moved to Okanagan with hope; he ended up being sent to a WWII internment camp

Raymond Lenzi shares his grandfather’s story ahead of Canada’s planned formal apology to Italian-Canadians

Most Read