By Chad Ingram
Published Feb. 2 2018
The recording of council meetings inAlgonquin Highlands is prohibited except with permission of the mayoraccording a new procedural bylaw.
Council passed that bylaw during a Feb. 1meeting.
While it didn't come up in conversationaround the council table section 93 of the bylaw entitled “recordingequipment” reads as follows:
“At meetings of council or its committeesthe use of cameras electric lighting equipment flash bulbs recordingequipment television cameras and any other device of a mechanical electronicor similar nature used for transcribing or recording proceedings by auditory orvisual means by any person including not limited to members representativesof any news media whatsoever is prohibited unless authorized in advance by themayor or presiding officer as the case may be; save and except for; therecording secretary of the meeting or designated staff members.”
Section 94 of the policy goes on to read“When exercising the discretion to authorize the use of equipment such asdescribed above regard shall be had as to whether the use will be adistraction to the meeting.”
“It’s a bit of a catch-all” Mayor CarolMoffatt told the Times adding thepolicy was not meant to target local media for whom it is a common practice tomake audio recordings of council meetings.
“I think everyone knows some of you guys dorecord” Moffatt said. She said a mechanism would be instituted to give localmedia outlets standing permission to record meetings.
Moffatt said that members of the public whoattend meetings might not always be aware that recordings are happening.
“It really it’s just to advise otherpeople who may be at the meeting that a recording’s going on” she said.
Moffatt also noted that ultimately there isno way for councillors to know if members of the public are recording councilproceedings through devices such as smart phones.
Bancroft Wollaston and Highlands Eastcouncils employ similar policies and the executive director of CanadianJournalists for Free Expression Tom Henheffer told Times sister publication Bancroft This Week last summer there areethical considerations to limiting the public’s right to record councilproceedings.
“They are violating a core tenet of ourdemocracy” he said. “These are public meetings that are public for a reasonand they need to be held accountable.”
Henheffer told the paper that restrictingrecordings was becoming more common among municipal councils.
“It’s absolutely horrendous and this issomething that we’ve seen happening in small towns around Canada” he said. “Asa lot of newspapers and other media outlets close there’s no one minding thefarm at council so they feel like they can get away with anything. They passlaws like this specifically because they can and there’s not enough fightingback from citizens.”