Controversy over non-publication of municipal minutes continues

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Maryam Amini

SHAWVILLE – A recent decision by the Municipality of Shawville to stop publication of their council meeting minutes has raised a lot of attention and questions. The municipality hasn’t published the minutes of the council’s monthly meetings since April 2022 and public comments have been made about the lack of transparency this may indicate.

In the January 11 issue of the Journal there was an interview with Mayor Bill McCleary; he stated that the municipality is not required to publish the minutes, but they would be available upon request.

He also said the translations previously done cost the municipality between $500 to $600 per month adding citizens who wanted access to the minutes in French need to send a request to the municipality.

The Journal contacted the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MAMH) to confirm the requirements. The ministry responded: “The municipality is not required to publish the minutes of council meetings. However, in accordance with Article 208 of the Quebec Municipal Code, the minutes must be kept in an official register and may be consulted by any person who requests them during regular working hours. Furthermore, the minutes must be written in French, in accordance with section 19 of the Charter of the French Language.”

The Journal also contacted the municipalities of L’Isle-aux-Allumettes, Clarendon, Bristol and Mansfield to ask about the publication of their minutes. They all confirmed publication online in both languages with the translation done by a bilingual employee (no additional expense) noting sometimes it takes several months to have things posted. The Municipality of Mansfield is francophone, so they only publish their minutes in French.

André Fortin, Pontiac’s MNA, had suggested that the municipality could publish a recording of the meetings. However, according to MAMH: “As provided for in section 23 of the Charter of the French Language, organizations recognized under section 29.1, as is the case for the Municipality of Shawville, must ensure that their services to the public are available in French. These services include the publication of the proceedings of the municipal council. Since the video or audio recordings of meetings are held in English only, the Municipality must accompany their publication with a communication in French (e.g. minutes, summary of proceedings) in order to comply with section 23.”

Mayor McCleary responded to this latest information, saying, “Already some parts of the minutes are in French, since the resolutions are in both languages. I have never heard of the need to translate the entire minutes for our own archive.

We were considering publishing the recordings, but they are in English and it seems it would also require a translation.

If Municipal Affairs enforces a translation, well, we will do it.”