In Camera Meeting Standards
Whereas Section 120 of The Municipalities Act states:
(1) Subject to subsections (2) and (3), councils and council committees are required to conduct their meetings in public.
(2) Councils and council committees may close all or part of their meetings to the public if the matter to be discussed:
(a) is within one of the exemptions in Part III of The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act; or
(b) concerns long-range or strategic planning; and
Whereas Manitoba legislation is more explicit about in camera sessions, as noted below:
8.8 Despite clause 8.7 of this by-law, council or council committee may close a meeting to the public if:
(a) the members decide during the meeting to meet as a committee to discuss a matter, and
(b) the decision and general nature of the matter are recorded in the minutes of the meeting; and
(c) the matter to be discussed relates to
(i) municipal assistance,
(ii) an employee, including the employee’s salary, duties and benefits and any appraisal of the employee’s performance
(iii) a matter that is in its preliminary stages and respecting which discussion in public could prejudice the municipality’s ability to carry out its activities or negotiations,
(iv) the conduct of existing or anticipated legal proceedings,
(v) the conduct of an investigation under, or enforcement of, an Act or by-law,
(vi) the security of documents or premises, or
(vii) a report of the Ombudsman received by the head of the council under clause 36(1)(e) of The Ombudsman Act.
8.9 No resolution or by-law may be passed at a meeting that is closed to the public, except a resolution to reopen the meeting to the public.
Therefore be it resolved that the SUMA advocate the Government of Saskatchewan to amend Section 120 of The Municipalities Act to provide more explicit guidelines for in camera sessions, based on Manitoba’s legislation.
- Legislation already allows for more explicit guidelines, rules, and procedures for closing a meeting to be adopted by council as part of the procedures bylaw that all councils are required to have in place.
- Councils are in the best position to decide when closing a meeting to the public may be warranted due to the nature or potential discussion of a specific subject matter being or becoming confidential.
- The ministry believes this is a better approach than prescribing a “one size fits all” list that may not apply to all situations or be interpreted by rural, urban, and norther councils in the same manner.
- If an individual council believes Manitoba’s provisions regarding in camera sessions are appropriate for it, it may incorporate them into its procedures bylaw. This will be faster than an amendment to a provincial statute. The matters in Manitoba’s provisions are consistent with those in Part III of The Local Authority Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. This includes a council’s handling of an Ombudsman report, although it should be noted that in Saskatchewan, a report of the Ombudsman or any matter in a report may be disclosed or made public by the Ombudsman under its own powers in The Ombudsman Act, 2012.