Ontario’s municipal governments are required to meet in public session for all be a few exceptional reasons. There are no consequences for violation Ontario’s open meeting laws.

Here are a few recent open meeting violation reports.

Casselman’s illegal council meeting is one of the wildest ombuds reports yet

The council of the municipality of Casselman is being heavily chastised by Ontario’s Ombudsman for holding an illegal meeting on January 26, 2023.

The details are hard to believe.

The secret meeting was exposed when the municipality “inadvertently” published the “clandestine call” audio on its website.

“As a result of what was described to my Office as a technical mistake, the recording included a short segment before the meeting was opened as well as a very long segment after the meeting was adjourned during which members of council continued to discuss council business,” writes Ombudsman Paul Dubé.

The council discussed nine items during the clandestine meeting. They would’ve gotten away with it, but for their stupidity in recording and uploading the audio.

The audio reveals a remarkable difference between their private and public behaviour during meetings.

It is something many people at Hamilton City Hall have talked about, during the pandemic, our City Council was grossly misbehaving during closed session and using obscene gestures at each other.

Many Hamilton staff members and then-council members have shared stories, but none would go on record.

Amherstburg’s vague closed session descriptors violated open meeting laws

Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé writes that municipalities must provide sufficient information about their reasons for entering into closed session.

An “Update on Matter Before Administrative Tribunal affecting the Municipality” to describe a matter before the Ontario Land Tribunal is insufficient.

On this part of the complaint (and only this part), Amherstburg council violated open meeting requirements.

Windsor council violated open meeting laws when voting in closed session to take over Business Improvement Areas

Windsor uses a law firm as its closed meeting investigator (instead of the Ontario Ombudsman). They hired Local Authority Services, who delegated to Aird & Berlis LLP.

Aird Berlis’s Laura Dean writes an informative report, explaining that Windsor Council failed to provide public notice of its closed meeting, did not post the meeting agenda, did not make the required public resolution to enter into closed session, voted in closed session, which the Municipal Act prohibits, and did not provide a resolution after the closed session. (TLDR: doing everything wrong)

Of note for other councils: the report says because the employment of BIA members was not the focus of discussion, the council could not use the labour relations exception to enter into closed session.

“We find the discussion regarding Council’s temporary assumption of the BIAs could have been parsed out of any discussion regarding ‘personal matter[s] about an identifiable individual’ and should have occurred in open session.”

Niagara Falls council violates open meeting laws, debates budget behind closed doors

City Clerk says councillors were uncomfortable debating budget in public. “In this type of setting it allows the councillors to ask some questions that maybe they wouldn’t feel comfortable asking in an open session.” Niagara Falls Council approved their 2024 budget without proper public input.

Turns out Elliot Lake did not violate open meeting laws


Elliot Lake’s council was found to violate the Municipal Act’s open meeting requirement during a January 30, 2023, meeting when it removed the public and discussed the organizational chart of one of its departments in closed session.

The council claimed it discussed personal matters about identifiable individuals but did not produce any evidence to show this.

The Ombuds asked for a recording of the closed session, Elliot Lake said there was none. Accordingly, the Ombuds ruled they violated open meeting laws.

Turns out there was a video, and once the video was reviewed, the Ombuds was able to find there was no closed meeting violation.

Ombuds notes municipalities not required to publish agendas online

In a report finding no closed meeting violations, the Ontario ombudsman recommends the Municipality of Temagami post its agendas online, but notes the Municipal Act does not require any municipality to publish agendas or minutes online.

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Published: May 25, 2024
Last updated: May 25, 2024
Author: Joey Coleman
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