When can City Council or an advisory body for Council go in camera (close the meeting to the public)?

City Hall StatueWe have been made aware of cases over the past several years when an advisory body (e.g., the UDP and the West End Mayor’s Advisory Committee) has abruptly gone “in camera” by leaving the room, or asked members of the public to leave. Anyone concerned about transparency of our municipal government is encouraged to become familiar with the rules, expect perfect compliance by every civic body, and ask questions when in doubt.

Here below are excerpts of the relevant legislation, as written as of today (13-July-2015). The reasons and process for going “in camera” are set out in the Vancouver Charter, sections, 165.2, 165.3, and 165.7.

We wish to emphasize the requirements respecting closed meetings: Before holding a meeting or part of a meeting that is to be closed to the public, the Council [or body] must state, by resolution passed in a public meeting,

(a) the fact that the meeting or part is to be closed, and

(b) the basis under the applicable subsection of section 165.2 on which the meeting or part is to be closed.

(2) The minutes of a meeting or part of a meeting that is closed to the public must record the names of all persons in attendance.

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Meetings that may or must be closed to the public

VANCOUVER CHARTER

SECTION 165.2  (1) A part of a Council meeting may be closed to the public if the subject matter being considered relates to or is one or more of the following:

(a) personal information about an identifiable individual who holds or is being considered for a position as an officer, employee or agent of the city or another position appointed by the city;

(b) personal information about an identifiable individual who is being considered for an award or honour, or who has offered to provide a gift to the city on condition of anonymity;

(c) labour relations or other employee relations;

(d) the security of the property of the city;

(e) the acquisition, disposition or expropriation of land or improvements, if the Council considers that disclosure could reasonably be expected to harm the interests of the city;

(f) law enforcement, if the Council considers that disclosure could reasonably be expected to harm the conduct of an investigation under or enforcement of an enactment;

(g) litigation or potential litigation affecting the city;

(h) an administrative tribunal hearing or potential administrative tribunal hearing affecting the city, other than a hearing to be conducted by the Council or a delegate of Council;

(i) the receipt of advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose;

(j) information that is prohibited, or information that if it were presented in a document would be prohibited, from disclosure under section 21 [disclosure harmful to business interests of a third party] of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act;

(k) negotiations and related discussions respecting the proposed provision of an activity, work or facility that are at their preliminary stages and that, in the view of the Council, could reasonably be expected to harm the interests of the city if they were held in public;

(l) a matter that, under another enactment, is such that the public may be excluded from the meeting;

(m) the consideration of whether a Council meeting should be closed under a provision of this subsection or subsection (2);

(n) the consideration of whether the authority under section 165.21 [other persons attending closed meetings] should be exercised in relation to a Council meeting.

(2) A part of a Council meeting must be closed to the public if the subject matter being considered relates to one or more of the following:

(a) a request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, if the Council is designated as head of the local public body for the purposes of that Act in relation to the matter;

(b) the consideration of information received and held in confidence relating to negotiations between the city and a provincial government or the federal government or both, or between a provincial government or the federal government or both and a third party;

(c) a matter that is being investigated under the Ombudsperson Act, of which the city has been notified under section 14 [ombudsperson to notify authority] of that Act;

(d) a matter that, under another enactment, is such that the public must be excluded from the meeting;

(e) a review of a proposed final performance audit report for the purpose of providing comments to the auditor general on the proposed report under section 23 (2) of the Auditor General for Local Government Act.

(3) If the only subject matter being considered at a Council meeting is one or more matters referred to in subsection (1) or (2), the applicable subsection applies to the entire meeting.

1999-37-323; 2003-52-506; 2009-21-5,Sch 2.

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Requirements respecting closed meetings

SECTION 165.3  (1) Before holding a meeting or part of a meeting that is to be closed to the public, the Council must state, by resolution passed in a public meeting,

(a) the fact that the meeting or part is to be closed, and

(b) the basis under the applicable subsection of section 165.2 on which the meeting or part is to be closed.

(2) The minutes of a meeting or part of a meeting that is closed to the public must record the names of all persons in attendance.

1999-37-323; 2003-52-506.

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Application to other city bodies

SECTION 165.7  Subject to the regulations under section 165.8, sections 165.1 to 165.5 apply to meetings of the following:

(a) a public auditorium or museum board or commission under section 204A;

(b) the Building Board of Appeal under section 306B;

(c) [Repealed 2012-29-51.]

(d) the Park Board under section 485;

(e) the Board of Variance under section 572;

(f) heritage commission under section 581;

(g) a Court of Revision under this Act;

(h) other administrative bodies, other than the Board of Police Commissioners;

(i) an advisory committee, or other advisory body, established by Council under this or another Act;

(j) a prescribed body.

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