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M139 was rescinded last week and was replaced by a newer order after the Ombudsperson shared his draft report with the government.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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in South Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Jason Noble and his longtime partner Marilyn Martin (Photo submitted)
ROTARY MONTH: Camaraderie, helping others fuels Rotary Club of Williams Lake Daybreak

For the past year-and-a-half Martin has served as the club’s secretary; Noble as president

Rotary Club of Williams Lake members, including president Mike Austin (second from left), cook up breakfasts during a Stampede breakfast this past summer. (Photo submitted)
ROTARY MONTH: Rotary Club of Williams Lake looking to get back to business

While COVID-19 made most of 2020 and the start of the new… Continue reading

Tribune columnist Jim Hilton captured this photo of the forest floor during a hike in the Helmken Falls area at Wells Gray Provinicial Park. (Jim Hilton photo)
FOREST INK: Forests and its connection to human health, part one

Urbanization and modern lifestyle have diminished possibilities for human contact with nature

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Most Read