CJFE condemns lack of transparency in Southgate Council

Wednesday, February 10, 2016
5 reactions

southgate, township, transparency, council

PHOTO: The Silverliner/Flickr

CJFE is concerned with the lack of public transparency and the suppression of public information during Council and Committee meetings held in the Township of Southgate. This violation of freedom of expression has been brought to our attention by recently elected Southgate Mayor Anna-Marie Fosbrooke.

 

In 2012, Procedural Bylaw 70-2012 was amended to add a ‘no recording’ clause, which banned audio or video taping of any Council or Committee meeting. According to Mayor Fosbrooke, on the basis of this clause, the former Mayor of Southgate filed a report with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) about a resident who attempted to videotape a public Council meeting in 2012. The OPP intervened and attempted to take away the camera.

 

CJFE understands that Council majority recently passed a resolution in January 2016 to amend this Procedural Bylaw so that meetings open to the public cannot be recorded by any member of the public without prior consent of Council. In addition, any Council recordings can only be used for personal use and cannot be made public without prior consent of the Council. Staff are permitted to audio record Council meetings, however these can only be used for internal purposes. These amendments do not adequately further the objectives of transparency and freedom of expression.

 

After the resolution was passed, Mayor Fosbrooke proposed to amend the bylaw so that electronic media such as recording devices can be used by citizens in Council meetings. This bid to increase transparency was voted down by the Council.

 

The actions taken by the Council of Southgate are very worrisome. In a unanimous court decision, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2007 that municipalties across Canada must accept open meeting provisions and abstain from unauthorized closed sessions. This followed at 1997 Supreme Court ruling that municipalities are subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; preventing citizens from recording public Council meetings constitutes a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of expression enshrined in the Charter.

CJFE calls for the Council of the Township of Southgate to allow audio and video recordings at all public meetings and committees. Full transparency of public information is necessary for residents to monitor the deliberations their elected body, which is responsible to its constituency. These deliberations are not fully captured in meeting minutes and we urge all possible steps to be taken to ensure the Southgate Council is fully accessible, transparent and accountable.


This letter of concern was sent to the Council of Southgate Township. 

 

What do you think?

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • commented 2016-12-03 17:17:32 -0500
    Sorry I think Almonte has the same problem
    They are trying to sell Parkland and will not let us talk we had 1300 sign a petition and 350 at meeting mayor and chair closed meeting because they didn’t like question. mayor told a person in gallery to F off and drew his fist because there there was a sign there
    This is not democracy no freedom of speech here
  • commented 2016-12-03 17:05:03 -0500
    I think Almonte not has the same problem
  • followed this page 2016-02-15 10:51:01 -0500
  • followed this page 2016-02-12 10:08:14 -0500
  • commented 2016-02-11 16:14:00 -0500
    The people of Southgate have suffered enough with this nonsense over the past few years. I remember this was going on in their little township while we faced the same issue in our little township of Adelaide Metcalfe. In small townships media rarely attends council meetings and reports on the goings on, so public videotaping incredibly necessary – there is nobody else holding the government accountable but the people who live there.

    After attending years of frustrating council meeting that had agendas and minutes that didn’t match up with reality http://www.lfpress.com/news/london/2012/01/25/19295116.html , I started videotaping council meetings as there wasn’t a bylaw against it.

    The mayor actually called the police to have me removed for videotaping an open council meeting. The police didn’t know what they were going to charge me with – finally they came up with ‘trespassing’. http://www.lfpress.com/news/london/2012/05/13/19753221.html

    The next meeting we had to pack the council with over 100 residents from kids to seniors (remember this is a small township of only 3000), and everyone brought their cameras, even if they didn’t work. Seven police cruisers were waiting outside. In the end I’d have to thank the police for not blaming us that time and the mayor had to shut down the meeting that was trying to pass a resolution to ban videotaping, because they hadn’t done that yet.
    http://www.lfpress.com/news/london/2012/06/08/19856301.html

    The last meeting the mayor finally retracted his demand to change the bylaw, and videotaping was allowed. http://www.lfpress.com/news/london/2012/06/11/19864536.html

    All I can say is that if wasn’t for the residents packing the chambers and refusing to take that kind of BS, we wouldn’t have had a hope in hell of being able to videotape open council meetings.