Public accessibility to the decision-making process of elected
officials is an important principle in local government.
Division 3, Part 4 of the Community Charter augments this
principle, but also recognizes the need for council to discuss certain matters in a
The open meetings provisions apply to the City of Vancouver,
regional districts, the Islands Trust and greater boards.
What is required
All meetings of council and its committees, commissions and other
subsidiary bodies must be open to the public. However, under certain
circumstances section 90 (meetings that may or must be closed to the
public) provides that council may close a meeting
or part of a meeting by passing a resolution that sets out the basis
for closing the meeting to discuss any of the following:
- personal information about individuals appointed to or being
considered for appointment as an officer, employee or agent of the
- personal information about individuals being considered for a
municipal award or who have offered a gift to the municipality
on condition of anonymity;
- labour/employee relations;
- security of property of the municipality;
- acquisition, disposition or expropriation of land or improvements
if municipal interests could be harmed by disclosure;
- law enforcement if disclosure could harm an investigation or
enforcement of an enactment;
- litigation or potential litigation impacting the municipality;
- a hearing or potential hearing by an outside administrative
tribunal (e.g., Gaming Commission, Motor Carrier Commission,
Utilities Commission) affecting the municipality;
- the receipt of legal advice;
- information that is prohibited or information that if it were
presented in a document would be prohibited, from disclosure under
section 21 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy
- municipal service negotiations and related discussions that are at
their preliminary stages and that could harm the interests of the
municipality if held in public;
- objectives, measures and progress reports with municipal officers
and employees for the purposes of preparing the municipality's
- a matter that under another enactment is such that the public can
- whether or not the meeting should be closed; and
- whether or not council wishes to use the authority under
section 91 to exclude or allow municipal staff or other persons to attend a
Council must close a meeting by passing a resolution that sets
out the basis for closing the meeting to discuss any of the
- confidential information that relates to negotiations between
the municipality and the federal/provincial government, or
between the federal/provincial government and a third party
(i.e. negotiations with a First Nation under the Treaty Process);
- FOIPP request directed at the municipality;
- a matter related to the municipality that is being investigated by
the Ombudsman; and
- a matter that, under a separate enactment, must be discussed in a
Under section 91 [other persons attending closed meetings], the attendance
or exclusion of non-council members at a closed meeting is generally a matter for council
to decide. Council may choose to include individuals who are considered
necessary to advise council on the matters being discussed, or
council may choose to exclude municipal officers from a closed
meeting. This would likely only occur where council is discussing
specific staffing issues.
All council votes on the reading or adoption of a bylaw must be
made in an open meeting, even if the issues that gave rise to the
bylaw were discussed in a closed meeting.
Section 117 (duty to respect confidentiality) requires a council
member or former council member, unless specifically authorized by
council, to keep in confidence:
- any record held in confidence by the municipality until the
municipality authorizes its release; and
- information considered in a lawfully closed council meeting or
council committee meeting, until council discusses the information
at an open meeting.
This means that confidentiality must be maintained until the
municipality makes the information public.
If the municipality suffers loss or damage because a person
contravenes the requirement to respect confidentiality and the
contravention was not inadvertent, the municipality may seek damages
through the courts. The duty to respect the confidentiality
provision applies only to municipalities and regional districts.
What to consider
The municipal council resolution required to close a meeting or part, must be passed in the open part of a meeting and the resolution must state:
At a minimum, the resolution should reference the specific wording in Subsections 1 and 2 of Section 90 in order to explain why the meeting or part is being closed.
- the fact that the meeting or part of the meeting is to be closed; and
- the basis under Section 90 for which the meeting or part is to be closed.
What is a Council Meeting?
The general rule that all meetings of council be open to the public
is intended to be applied broadly, in keeping with the principle of
openness and court decisions on the types of gatherings that
are deemed to constitute a meeting. Based on some court
interpretations, a council meeting is any gathering:
- to which all members of council have been invited; and
- that is a material part of council's decision-making process.
Council gatherings where all council members could be seen to be
making decisions, or moving towards making decisions, would meet
this two-part definition. All such gatherings should be held in
accordance with the Community Charter's open meeting provisions.
Briefings by Staff
Staff briefings to further council’s understanding of an issue that
do not constitute a material part of council's decision making
process would not typically be considered to be a meeting of council.
The Community Charter requires that a municipality’s procedure bylaw
provide for the taking of minutes of council and committee meetings,
including requiring certification of those minutes. Minutes of
closed meetings must record the names of all persons in attendance.
All minutes must be available to the public in accordance with
section 97 (other records to which public access must be granted),
except for those taken at a meeting or part of a meeting
that is closed to the public. The corporate officer is assigned
responsibility for ensuring that accurate minutes of the meetings of
council and council committees are prepared and that the minutes are
maintained and kept safe.
Attendance at Closed Meetings
If council excludes officers from closed meetings, the minutes of
the meeting must be taken by someone in attendance at the meeting.
However, the corporate officer is still responsible to ensure that
these minutes are accurate. Assigning minute-taking responsibility
to an elected official may impact the ability of the corporate
officer to fulfill this responsibility. For this reason, councils
may want to limit the circumstances in which the corporate officer
or another staff person versed in taking minutes is excluded from
Please direct questions or comments to
Advisory Services Branch.