Maintaining Order in Municipal Chambers

Chairs of Mississippi Mills Council meetings follow procedures laid out in a specific by-law when chairing meetings, and hearing from public delegations and individuals.

The principal legislation governing municipalities is the Municipal Act. In section 238 (2) it states every municipality “shall pass a procedure by-law for governing the calling, place and proceedings of meetings.” In brief, that Act leaves meeting rules up to municipalities.

Our current and former clerks created a procedure by-law under the Act based on best practices in other municipalities. It applies to all public meetings, including those under the Planning Act. (That Act does not describe the rules or structure of such meetings.) For the record, below are pertinent sections governing decorum and procedure (sections 29, 75, 78-80, 82 and 83).

29. Members of the public attending a Meeting shall respect the formal and professional decorum of Council and its Committees.
a) Individuals shall refrain from public outburst, shouting, applauding and any behaviour intended to disrupt the debate, discussion and general proceedings of Council or a Committee.
b) Individuals shall maintain order and shall not display signs, placards, or other items that may be considered disruptive to the formal nature of Council Meetings being held in Council Chambers.
c) In accordance with Section 241(2) of the Municipal Act, 2001, the Chair may expel any person for improper conduct/decorum at a Meeting.
d) If required, the Chair may call upon the Ontario Provincial Police or any other Peace Officer to assist in the expulsion of a person from the Chamber or meeting room.
e) After being expelled by the Chair as a result of improper conduct/decorum or committing a breach of any rule of order, an individual will only be permitted to return after making an apology to Council or Committee and with the consent of Council or Committee expressed by a majority vote of the Members present determined without debate.
f) The Chair may unilaterally suspend the Meeting until order is restored.
g) All cell phones and electronic devices shall be turned off and/or set to silent mode during a Meeting held in Council Chambers.
h) Any device used for transcribing or recording proceedings of Council or a Committee by auditory or visual means will not be permitted.
i) Unless authorized by the Clerk or Chair, no Member of the public may place any material on Members’ desks or distribute any material to Members during a Meeting.

75. Council shall hold Public Meetings, as required by law for purposes under the Planning Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. P.13, as amended; Development Charges Act, 1997, S.O. 1997, c. 27; or any other Act. Such a Meeting shall be conducted at a Regular or Special Council Meeting.

78. Individuals shall sign the ‘Public Meeting Sign-in Sheet’ prior to being permitted to speak to Council or a Committee. The Mayor or Chair shall call upon individuals based on the order in which they signed in.

79. All comments are to be addressed through the Mayor or Chair.

80. The length of time each individual has to address Council or a Committee shall be at the discretion of the Mayor or Chair.

82. During Public Meetings, no Member of the public shall:
a)  speak disrespectfully of any person;
b)  use improper or non-parliamentary language;
c)  disobey the rules of procedure or a decision of the Mayor or Chair;
d)  or, speak to Council about matters:
  • involving current or pending litigation;
  • involving insurance claims;
  • administrative complaints that have not been reported and investigated through the Customer Service process;
  • beyond the jurisdiction of Council; or
  • contrary to MFIPPA [the privacy act]

83. The Mayor or Chair may curtail a speaker for disorder or any other breach of this or any by-law. When the Mayor or Chair rules that the delegation is concluded, the individual/group shall withdraw from the podium or equivalent immediately.

Procedure by-laws, such as ours, are consistent with the Municipal Act and have been supported in the courts.