Closed Meetings

Information for the Public

Why Do Municipal Councils and Local Boards Have Meetings
or Portions of Meetings That Are Closed to The Public?

Municipal councils, local boards and their committees logically must meet behind closed doors on occasion to deal with some matters. For example, if a municipality is being sued or if council is considering purchasing a piece of land or if council must deal with a labour relations issue then it is appropriate that it be able to do so at a closed meeting. The purpose of such a closed meeting is to receive information or give directions.

Local government in Ontario must be transparent and accountable. To this end, the Province has set the rules for a council, local board or a committee to go into a closed meeting. These rules are found in section 239 of the Municipal Act, 2001, as amended. They must be strictly followed.

The permitted reasons for going into a closed meeting are:

  • The security of property of the municipality or local board;
  • Personal matters about an identifiable individual, including employees;
  • A proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land;
  • Labour relations or employee negotiations;
  • Litigation or potential litigation
  • Advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege;
  • A matter authorized by another provincial statute;
  • If Council is the “Head” and the subject matter relates to a request under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act; or
  • The meeting is held for educating and training and no member discusses or deals with a matter in a way that materially advances the business or decision-making of the council or local board.”

Before council, a local board or a committee begins the closed meeting, it must pass a resolution at a public meeting indicating that a closed meeting is being held and what the general nature of the matter to be considered is. A closed meeting shall not be held by council a local board or committee before this resolution is passed.

Any person has the right to request an investigation as to whether the municipality, local board or committee complied with the closed meeting rules established by the Province or the Procedure By-law of the municipality or local board. For Amberley Gavel’s clients, a request must be in writing and be directed to the municipal clerk.

It should describe the meeting(s) in question, their dates, and the reasons why the request is being made. Contact information such as the name, address, telephone number and email for the requestor is essential. Amberley Gavel’s clients will have a form available for this purpose. Anonymous complaints will not be considered.

All complainants names will be confidential. The details of the complaint cannot be, as it will be the subject of a public report filed with the Municipal Council.

Please note that the investigation can deal only with the closed meeting process followed, and make recommendations for future processes.

The subject matter of a decision by Council that may have been made following a closed meeting, or made improperly in a closed meeting will not be the centre of the investigation and may not even be mentioned in the Investigator’s report. The legislative changes creating the investigation process were designed to enhance transparency of decision making. Persons wishing to overturn a Council decision will need to speak with their own legal counsel to determine if there are grounds for such an action.