Toronto residents have the right to record public meetings, related to land-use decision making, and to publish news reports based upon direct quotations from such meetings

The purpose of the current post is to underline that residents of Toronto and other municipalities have the right to record public meetings and to report on them, through blogs and other means.

As a long-time blogger, I attended a public meeting, organized by the Long Branch Neighbourhood Association, on April 4, 2018:

Opposition to lot-splitting/overbuilding: April 4, 2018 Long Branch Neighbourhood Association meeting featured Q & A with Toronto City staff regarding Character Guidelines

At that meeting, city staffers took part in a Q & A regarding the Long Branch Character Guidelines project. As I have noted at a previous post (please see link above) I was informed, by two city staffers at the start of the April 4, 2018 meeting, that I was not permitted to record the meeting unless I had prior approval from media relations at the City of Toronto.

At that meeting, I was also informed, by two city staffers, that I was not permitted to directly quote any city staffer, based on my notes from such a meeting, unless I had arranged for prior approval from media relations at the City of Toronto.

As a consequence, I wrote a report, documenting the meeting, using paraphrases (that is, no direct quotations) of what City officials said, at the meeting. That is to say, I was scrupulous in following the directions of the two city staffers who spoke to me, prior to the meeting.

After the meeting, I contacted media relations at the City of Toronto, and asked for verification of what the two staffers had told me. Media relations responded, and said that if it’s a public meeting, there is no question that any member of the public has the right to record it. I have documented that response at the above-noted link from my website.

I mention this, so that it is known as widely as possible, that members of the public have the right to record public meetings at which municipal officials share information.

In the event that, on a future occasion, I or another member of the public chooses to record a public meeting, such as the April 4, 2018 meeting referred to above, I would like to outline some possible scenarios that may ensue.

It may happen that I or another blogger or member of the public will be permitted to record a future public meeting, no questions asked.

It is my hope that that will be the case. Given what I have observed in the past, however, a person must be prepared for other potential scenarios.

It may also happen, that is, based on the fact that a particular culture of language usage has taken hold in connection with land-use decision making in Toronto, that city staffers may persist in ignoring the media relations policy that is in fact in place.

It may also occur, in line with such a culture of decision making, that the Toronto Police Service or the city’s security service may be called, on the pretext that a resident is disrupting a public meeting by persisting in the recording of it, in defiance of city staffers who have indicated that such a recording, without prior approval from media relations, is not permitted.

In the event that such a scenario unfolds, I would like to underline that residents have the right to persist in recording of a public meeting, even in the face of directions to the contrary, on the part of city staffers.

A related recent post is entitled:

I now serve as foreign correspondent, blogging on land-use decision making along the Lake Ontario waterfront in the GTA

 

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